John in the Boro wrote this to comment on “Temporary Friends” and one of Jonst’s thoughts on that piece. I think this comment conveys something that is key to the discussion. pl
Methinks the dog hath caught his tail. Pray he does not choke upon it.
Jonst writes: “Sure, go ahead and use whomever, if it will get us out sooner and safer. It might be asked however, whether announcing, and acknowledging, indeed, trumpeting, this apparent change of ‘stomach’ is helpful, in the utilitarian sense, to the ostensibly desired goal. But in any event the deed is done. And lets leave it to ‘dextox counselors to point out delicious irony of having those, who assured us of a connection between Saddam, and his sunni tribal kin, with AQ, now pay said same kin, essentially, to go after the so called AQ of Mesopotamia.
That recognition of that irony (to the extent they are capable of recognizing irony in general) will however, make for a long stay in detox I suspect.”
The comment I made refers to the disconnect of whatever it is that the Bush administration is trying to accomplish in Iraq and what the military in Iraq does to implement that vision. It seems to me that the military has been chasing a rather ambiguous, ideologically framed, goal (the dog’s tail aka Bush’s vision). When the military fastens on an operational or tactical strategy, the strategy comes up short back in DC. It must be exasperating for the military to have a boss who says, “I don’t know what I want exactly, but I’ll recognize it when I see it”
(choking on the tail). jonst touches this in his comments. The efforts of the military in Iraq to find common ground with Sunni tribes against foreign fighters is another instance of the military adopting a strategy—a praiseworthy effort in my opinion—that would mesh nicely with a wide range of other actions, political and military. The question for me is does this comport with “the whole neocon thesis about the Middle East?” That thesis is long on “Calvinist [Straussian] assumptions” and short on pragmatism, realism, ground truth, and transparency. Will the “commander guy” allow the military commanders on the ground to continue dealing with the tribes, or will he and his entourage denounce the action and impose another catchy slogan? Mind you, I am not a member of the “stabbed in the back” gang. I think Bush’s administration has made a mess out of our foreign relations and has not been forthright in its actions. The military has been given an endless mission in Iraq.
Your post “Temporary Friends” expresses thoughts that most probably are spoken in Iraq.”
Is it that the military is pursuing Bush’s nebulous political goal or is that the military doesn’t have the means (enough troops, social power, Iraqi allies) to acheive Bush’s ends?
I think it’s clear that Bush wants a government in Iraq that controls the whole country (no militias, etc) and that will grant the U.S. the right to keep large permanent bases for the next 50 years a la South Korea. The problem is: is that achievable at this point and what forces in Iraq have an interest in that outcome?
There’s a classic joke in corporate planning: “high-quality, low-cost, soon: choose two.” It expresses the idea that the contradictory goals of an organization are often resolved as a trilemma.
I think the top military commanders, beginning with Tommy Franks, have been derelict in not demanding a planning process from the Administration, which resolves contradictory imperatives. At first, they simply “kicked the can down the road” — that was Franks’ approach, apparently. Increasingly, they have chosen instead to interpret every such unresolved contradiction as a trilemma, where, instead of resolving the contradiction, the solution is to “go long” — to imagine that every contradiction among imperative goals and available means is resolvable by simply extending the horizon on task completion.
And, the Administration, (whose, until recently, unstated goal is permanent military bases in Iraq to project power in the region,) has always accepted the “go long” as furthering its own objectives.
The real trilemma of Bush grand strategy rests on the contradiction between the goal of permanent American military bases, able to project dominating military power in the region, and the political reality that no Iraqi government strong enough to be self-sustaining would tolerate a permanent American military presence.
There’s a dysfunctional symbiosis between the willingness of military commanders to translate unresolved contradictions into variations on, “go long”, and the Administration’s own goals of a permanent imperial powerbase, enabled by Iraqi weakness.
Military commanders cannot properly address the grand strategy directly, but their continued willingness to be operationally mismanaged by the absence of sufficient policy planning processes does them no credit.
“Go long” has become a dysfunctional gambit, to allow commanders to avoid confrontation with each other and with their political masters over what is a tragically flawed policy process, as well as a tragically flawed policy.
Post-Vietnam, the “go long” gambit was supposed to be plugged by legitimating the demand for an exit strategy, combined with legitimating the demand for overwhelming resource upfront. In Gulf War I, those two protective doctrines worked well.
But, in the present conflict, the Administration did not want to leave, so “exit strategy” was no longer effective.
If the military is to repair this breakdown, some way must be found to deny commanders the “go long” gambit, so that they have to confront each other and their political masters, when policy planning breaks down and become dysfunctional.
“It must be exasperating for the military to have a boss who says, “I don’t know what I want exactly, but I’ll recognize it when I see it””
Everyone has dealt with a boss, or client, or coworker, or spouse, or (fill in the blank) who doesn’t know what they want but pushes for *something…anything* anyway.
Professionals figure out techniques to get these folks to articulate exactly what they want.
That’s part of the job, so I’m not real sympathetic for the generals who didn’t push for more concrete objectives, or requirements, or whatever you want to call them, if they actually found themselves in this situation with their Boss.
These are circles way out of my pay grade. Does this actually happen at the highest levels? Did it happen this time round?
No doubt your four rules of analytical thought are best guides to mapping out reality. But, the problem was that the Iraq Invasion was just plain crazy. The strategic goal must have been to establish a client state and to place American companies in charge of pumping Iraqi oil. It does seem like the dog is chasing the tail. The American government and corporate media are unwilling to tell the truth to the American people. Hell, they were unable to tell the truth to themselves. To successfully implement their goals would have meant either the draft or additional infantry divisions from Egypt or Bangladesh. Either one would have stopped the invasion dead in its tracks. Neither the American people nor Islam supports an American colony in Mesopotamia.
The only question is when does reality bite back. Nixon was a realist, he got American troops out of Vietnam. Your orderly withdrawal will take a year. So far neither the Administration nor the Congress is able to start the pull back. The opposite is true; the number of grunts keeps increasing. The violence swells, bridges are destroyed. America goes further in debt.
If democracy works in America, Reed Hundt’s third party candidate will run and get elected on a platform:
The tribes are restless:
“Tribal coalition in Anbar said to be crumbling”
“A tribal coalition formed to oppose the extremist group al-Qaeda in Iraq, a development that U.S. officials say has reduced violence in Iraq’s troubled Anbar province, is beginning to splinter, according to an Anbar tribal leader and a U.S. military official familiar with tribal politics.
In an interview in his Baghdad office, Ali Hatem Ali Suleiman, 35, a leader of the Dulaim confederation, the largest tribal organization in Anbar, said that the Anbar Salvation Council would be dissolved because of growing internal dissatisfaction over its cooperation with U.S. soldiers and the behavior of the council’s most prominent member, Abdul Sattar Abu Risha. Suleiman called Abu Risha a “traitor” who “sells his beliefs, his religion and his people for money.””
Comment on this development from Paul Woodward:
“Amidst constant flux, the one constant in Iraq is the American quest for the good story — the light at the end of the tunnel, the glimmer on the horizon. The latest such shimmering hope was that Sunni insurgents were going to be able to root out al Qaeda and solve one of the U.S.’s thorniest problems. The assumption was that “the best counter-insurgent is the one who looks like an insurgent.” But no sooner than this story starts to take hold in the imagination of many a journalist, and then we hear that the anti-Qaeda coalition is starting to splinter — and this coming not long after one of the major insurgent groups had already announced a truce with al Qaeda.
The dilemma for the broader Sunni insurgency seems to be this: If al Qaeda was routed and US forces started pulling out, would the Sunnis stand much chance of reaching a political accommodation with the Shia, or would they thereby expose themselves even more? If a realistic political solution isn’t already on offer, then the insurgency is more likely to want to rein in al Qaeda than completely force it out.
As for emerging trends that are receiving less attention but may be just as significant, the bridge-destroying campaign that began in mid-April appears to be escalating. How long will it be before this has a crippling effect on US supply lines?”
I think we are getting a little deep here, but I’m going to wade in anyway.
There are a number of maxims from corporate strategy that immediately come to mind.
“If you don’t know where you want to go, then going anyplace is just as good as going anyplace else.”
“prior planning prevents piss-poor performance”
…..and the immortal business plan of the underpants stealing elves in a famous episode of South Park……..
1. Steal underpants.
Unfortunately we are still stuck at step number 2.
It is axiomatic that if you have no idea of where you are now, and the Vision/End State you wish to arrive at, then by definition you cannot make ‘progress” because you have nothing to measure against.
Given that the Military mind is making life and death decisions we prefer these decisions to be made as rationally as possible. We prefer them to be based on fact and calculation, because, for the benefit of Junior Officers and the ranks, they must be encapsulated in a “MIssion” or as us subjects of the Queen were taught “The Aim” – and you absolutely cannot have multiple aims.
So our problem in Iraq, and in fact in the entire bogus “war on terror” is that there is no clearly defined “end state”. We cannot know if or when we have “succeeded” because we have no idea what success means beyond the unobtainable idea of the absence of terror activity on the planet.
“Freedom” is not a vision. “Liberty” is not a vision. “Democracy” is not a vision. these are nominatives that can mean whatever anyone wants them to mean – which is why political snakes use such words all the time.
This is why the Bush “benchmarks” for Iraq are such a farce. Benchmarks against what? 1921? Sadaams regime in 1990? The New York crime rate? Compared to what?
Why are we arming the tribes in Anbar?….To fight Al Qaeeda in Iraq. Why? Why are we not instead putting effort into pacifying Baghdad? Or Mosul? Or cleaning up the PKK near the Turkish border? Or sealing the Iranian border? There are a multitude of competing priorities, but without a clear vision of what we want to achieve you cannot prioritise your tasks and allocate resources, you cannot even understand what resources you need, beyond the simple requirement for force protection. A dog chasing its tail is a very apt description of such a state of affairs.
It is perfectly clear that the Bush Administration had no vision for Iraq, or if it did, it didn’t tell the Military, let alone the American Public, let alone the Iraqi Public. It still has no vision.
There can be no “buy-in” by Americans without a vision. There can be no “buy-in” by the Iraqi public. Since there is nothing to “buy” except empty phrases and meaningless cliches like “support the troops”.
The military is simply going through the motions because there is no clearly enunciated vision of what America wants for Iraq.
Perhaps this state is intentional, because a rational discussion of what was a possible vision for a post invasion Iraq would have questioned the rationale for an invasion in the first place and highlighted the risks and costs involved.
If a business or company is run in this manner it eventuallly goes bankrupt. Same with countries.
In my opinion Bush, Cheney and the whole damn gang of Neocons have been deliberately and wilfully negligent to the point of treason.
“The strategic goal must have been to establish a client state and to place American companies in charge of pumping Iraqi oil.”
No. This is post modern social science logic which says that man is always is a rational actor and the rationality is that of economic determinism.
No. No. No. pl
“Why are we arming the tribes in Anbar?….To fight Al Qaeeda in Iraq. Why? Why are we not instead putting effort into pacifying Baghdad?”
Oh, toothed one, it is not a matter of either, or. We are attempting to pacify Baghdad. Thst is what Petraeus has all those troops in little forts for all over town.
you want to pull the marines out of Anbar? pl
A couple of things. First it was possible to surmise from newspapers etc. by the end of the first year of the occupation that we were building bases with the potential for a long haul in Iraq. The tension is between anticipated outcome of the initial caombat and the actual outcome. It was observable that from late ’04 on that Bush wanted to condition the situation so that the next President would find it very difficult on strategic, tactical and political grounds to undo what he had started. Consequently whatever appears to further these purposes is acceptable to the administration. The publically stated goals fall under the rubric of ‘wouldn’t it be nice’
if it happened i.e. reconciliation efforts. One doubts if there is a longer range administration strategy which is deeply developed. They give the appearance of moving from one thing to another with he only clarity being we want to be there for a while, hopefully in a peaceful situation, if possible. If not we’ll stay anyway, perhaps with the Kurds.
“we were building bases with the potential for a long haul in Iraq.”
Potential is one thing. Intention is another. Do you have anything other than someone’s opinion that the base improvements were for more or less permanent presence? pl
The Marines and Anbar deserve each other.
The neo-cons have never been that obtuse. Their goals were always an utopian Pax Americana. They thought that the cold war was over so there was nothing preventing us from imposing our “values” on everyone else.
Sure, the ME is important because of oil among other things, but neither oil, Israel, or Halliburton are causes of this current arrogance.
The cause is a combination of the arrogance of elitism, the idealism of “intellectuals” and the historic anomaly of 9/11, which allowed us, meaning all of us who know better and should have done something about it, to lower our guard.
The problem now is that once it becomes clear that utopia escapes us, there is no plan B, as there was no plan A. In the end, utopianism is not a plan at all it is a delusion, and we remain led by the delusional.
So, in other news today, Gaza is now a de-facto state ruled by Hamas. Is this a strategic victory for Iran or a divide and conquer strategic victory for Israel?
Cold War Zoomie asks. “These are circles way out of my pay grade. Does this actually happen at the highest levels? Did it happen this time round?” to my “It must be exasperating for the military to have a boss who says, “I don’t know what I want exactly, but I’ll recognize it when I see it.”
In my opinion, yes. The actions of President Bush, VP Cheney, former SecDef Rumsfeld, and the rest of the administration lead me to that opinion. For example, I find it quite curious that the general who was the last best hope for training the Iraqis (Bush’s “as they stand up, we’ll stand down”) is now the last best hope for containing the insurgency (Bush’s “surge”). Wonder how vigorously the general pushed the “commander guy” for guidance on either occasion. I am not criticizing General Petraeus; he has to work with and answer to the aforementioned group of civilian authorities or their replacement. He does appear to be challenging the Bush administration’s predetermination that the surge is working and showed (fait acompli) progress in September. That could be an interesting few minutes come September before the administration’s spinmeisters reframe his testimony to Congress for the benefit of the press and public. Got to keep Iraq in play for another several months. (grasping at straws further on)
This leads to the larger question regarding the Bush administration’s intentions for Iraq. Frank Durkee posits the argument for the four-base scheme. We can trace that basic idea back to the 1975 congressional feasibility study for the military take-over of ME oil fields. As an aside, Iraq was considered a poor choice as was the entire idea. But it was contemporaneous with a series of articles of the same topic (we have the power articles like the one by Miles Ignotus). So we come back to the “commander guy’s” intent.
It is worth recalling at the outset that this is the administration that has progressively lost the ability to protect information. We can go back to the library of tell-all books and proceed to the “loss” of millions of emails that, once found, trickle to Congress on Friday afternoons usually after COB. Whatever lay behind the administration’s policy decisions is likely to emerge sooner rather than later.
I think President Bush bought the neocon assumptions that premised the conduct of the initial invasion and occupation. That is not to say he believed the WMD and al-Qaida stories, but that he believed the operation would be short, cheap, and favorably received in Iraq. The bubble burst rather quickly, and he has been scrambling for a “vision” ever since. Remember, his father admits having difficulties with the “vision thing.” At some point, and Frank may be right about 2004, Bush realized his legacy is Iraq, and that he is backed into a corner. Leaving Iraq for the next guy has become forcing the next guy to take ownership of the place. This also brings up a good observation on Frank’s part. Bush has adamantly insisted on Iraqi unity. The four superbases (Guardian says Balad, al-Assad, Talil, and either Irbil or Qayyarah) are located in the potential successor states and near Baghdad. That’s convenient for the next president who may not be encumbered with keeping Iraq together. On a certain level, at least speculation of this sort, that the administration has a plan, secret and Machiavellian, but a plan nonetheless, sounds much better than the alternatives which several participants have made.
Be that as it may, and it is purely speculation, it seems likely (principle of parsimony and observation) that the Bush administration has more or less blundered its way along, restricted by its own ideology and inflexibility, over the past four years and is grasping at straws. I imagine it is hard for the military to build courses of action on straw. Especially so when the boss has a reputation for being less than receptive to opposing ideas. I, for one, look forward to the unraveling of this mess. In ‘ishna.
As a personal note, thanks to Pat for posting and the rest for engaging. I dropped my retirement papers on or about “Mission Accomplished” day and watched Iraq’s slow deterioration thereafter. Our serving men and women are owed leadership and clear guidance. Hope it comes soon. Meanwhile, they will soldier on despite management as always.
Had Iraq been the cakewalk that this crew predicted, I wonder what would have been next?
I think it is a mistake to see everything that happens in the Middle East within the Iranian context. There are other state and non-state actors besides US or Iran who have a different agenda. Of course, Iran has bought itself a seat at the negotiating table but she is not alone there and her freedom of action is constrained by those who have been there at that table for a long time already!
In regards to Gaza, I often wonder if Egypt (and possibly other Arab States) is not directly involved in funneling money and weapons into Gaza. How can a deprived and oppressed population like that design, test, and manufacture rockets – albeit pronitive?
From a strategic point of view, the continuation of the war in Palestine is in the interests of many states including Egypt, Russia, EU States, Jordan, Greece, and others. They all want Israel to be weakened so that a settlement may be made.
I also speculate if US thinking is along the same lines as well – i.e. let the Israelis and Palestinians fight each other and bleed each other until they are read for US mediation. But then I say to myself: “Nah, these guys are not that smart!”
Col. No. I recall articles,NYT, I think that were souced high in the administration that indicated that the bases were greater than the then misssion and time table warranted. Further that they would replace the bases that we were losing in Saudi Arabia. it was opinion but not unreasonable.
Part of what drives my opinion is an extrapolation from Bush’s domestic agenda. he clearly intended to be a revelotiounary president in the mold of Franklin Roosevelt, but overturning tha legacy. Perhaps in like wise he intended and seems to have declared a relatively reveloutionary agenda for the ME. In both instances I thhink his inttention was to condition the future so that it could not be easily reversed. Failure on both fronts, fed by the war and his extremism domestically in relationship to ‘the safety net’ have eroded some of that capacity but not all of it. He has not wanted just to improve the US and the ME but to radically change the course of both. In both areas, despite sett backs, he has in fact changed the landscape, if not how he hoped, changed it none the less. We should simply be clear about that and act accordingly.
>Everyone has dealt with a boss, or client, or coworker, or spouse, or (fill in the blank) who doesn’t know what they want but pushes for *something…anything* anyway.
>Professionals figure out techniques to get these folks to articulate exactly what they want.
>That’s part of the job, so I’m not real sympathetic for the generals who didn’t push for more concrete objectives, or requirements, or whatever you want to call them, if they actually found themselves in this situation with their Boss.
I once worked for a (pretty) famous bloke who knew what he didn’t want, but didn’t know what he did want. I was employed (and many had been employed before and since) to find out what he did want. (I think he did once have an idea, about 25 years ago, what he wanted, but had forgotten – sex and drugs and rock-and-roll, the Sixties, all that stuff). But all I found out was that the bloke was incoherent – thanks to sex and drugs and rock-and-roll, the Sixties, all that stuff. He didn’t have any idea what he wanted. But he didn’t know this. I told him this. Because he was rich and powerful he fired me and hired the next schmuck.
This is beginning to sound like a “creationist” argument, which the administration has no trouble milking on the domestic front. Because the desired intention of the mission has, for one reason or another, remained occult to both the military and the public, everyone is left with no choice but to interpret what the decider desires — as a sort of distorted and revolutionary attempt at gaining favor (and cementing hierarchy) — or in other words the cult-ification of loyalty, as the primary means to ends. The decider will give praise (heckofajob) to those who properly intuit his vision, without ever having to presuppose (or be responsible for) what his vision is, in concrete terms. It’s the ultimate “drunkards dream” of being “king of the world” and never having to “pay the alligator”.
Ironic, then, how all the “benchmarks” (defining success&failure) are laid exclusively on the Iraqi’s doorstep.
Heres your missionstatement: “people are fighting to liberate others and to extend the boundaries of liberty and to create the possibility for allies who are going to be not only allies in the war on terror but examples of exactly the power of freedom. The president wishes that nobody had to die.” End ay story, thanks to Tony Snow.
Extend the boundaries of liberty? Que pasa?
Will the many unintended consequences of the Bush League’s shenanigans include Cold War Mk II, nuclear proliferation en masse and the slow unraveling of the Zionist dream?
fred kaplan is also talking about temporary friends
war stories: Military analysis.
The Enemy of My Enemy
How Sunni insurgents can help us.
By Fred Kaplan
Posted Thursday, June 14, 2007, at 6:06 PM ET
“It’s time to start thinking cold-bloodedly about what we might yet eke out of Iraq.
An intriguing possibility is on display in Anbar province, where U.S. troops have formed an alliance with Sunni insurgents for the common purpose of killing al-Qaida jihadists.”
The dream that was our original intent brings to mind Langston:
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
Sorry for a screed that’s long on words and likely short on intelligence, but…
I have long suspected that one of the reasons that the Bush administration has not been able to articulate goals for the Iraq invasion has been because what Bush and company have always desired is not an endpoint reached via strategic means, but a process instead.
When organized crime takes over a legitimate business (e.g., by buying a 51% stake from its owners) so that the criminals can liquidate all business assets and exhaust all available credit, they are not interested in any particular goal for the business mission — they are interested only in the process of looting the financial assets of the firm.
And when an administration controlled primarily by organized greed (Exhibit A: Dick “I had other priorities” Cheney) takes over a nation by gaining a 51% electoral share, and begins liquidating the national treasury and exhausting all available credit, that administration isn’t interested in any particular goal such as “a functioning democracy in Iraq” or even “supporting our troops”.
Its only real interest is in the process of looting the nation’s financial assets. It’s about process, not outcome.
In other words, the current administration is little more than a bust-out scheme waged on a national scale, with the Iraq war as the primary rationale for transfering wealth from the nation’s treasury to well-connected corporations such as Halliburton or Carlyle. There is no clear military goal or feasible exit strategy because the motivating principle is merely to continue the process of wealth transfer as long as possible (e.g., recent suggestions that we stay in Iraq for 50 years, as we have in S. Korea).
Frankly, I don’t believe this simple hypothesis fully explains our current lack of intelligent policies for national security, but it certainly does help explain why military-industrial corporations are reporting incredible profits while our troops go without adequate armor.
And it does explain the odd fact that the U.S. spends as much on national security as all the other countries of the world combined, while military families may have to apply for food stamps just to make ends meet.
And while none of the Bush administration have any experience in (or respect for) the institutions of the military, most of them have plenty of experience in running corporations that feed exclusively at the federal trough.
So I don’t think it’s really about oil, or national security, or Zionist hegemony. I think Luke (12:34) said it best:
“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”.
The Bush administration’s heart is not in the lives of our servicemen, or in the well-being of their families, or in the interests of the citizenry. It’s in the deep pockets of its corporate donors, which is where our national treasure is, and has been, going.
Reports indicate the level of violence is surging:
“The uniformed kidnappers of Baghdad”
By Paul Wood
BBC News, Baghdad
Saturday, 16 June 2007, 11:05 GMT
“Shia politicians are pushing a plan to open the main avenue along the river in Baghdad, Abu Nawas.
It was originally an American plan. The coalition’s generals had visions of strolling couples, and fish restaurants doing a roaring trade, something like normal life.
But the coalition has now realised that the impetus behind this is to give Shia militia groups unfettered access to two bridges leading to Sunni areas. Sunnis are now talking about blowing up the two bridges…
One measure of how bad things have become is that Western diplomats will no longer visit the Iraqi Defence ministry, even though it is inside the Green Zone.
In fact, militia infiltration is believed to be such that no-one walks anywhere in the Green Zone for fear of being snatched off the street.”
If you are wondering about the credibility of this report, they state this:
“the BBC bureau is not in the Green Zone, walled off, literally and psychologically, from the rest of Iraq…”. A glimpse into daily life in Baghdad.
The thought comes to mind is that Iraq has not yet exploded completely, it is merely boiling. The recent mosque attacks raise the boiling temperature another notch.
“After each war there is a little less democracy to save.”
– Brooks Atkinson