Bernard Fall was perhaps the greatest historian of the era of counterinsurgency. He was French, a veteran of World War Two and acted as a consultant/professor for the US Army in the sixties. I had the privilege of listening to him lecture at the US Army Special Warfare Center at Ft. Bragg in 1964.
I watched Fall write his formula for counterinsurgency on a pad or blackboard or something. I have written of this before, but repeat the message here for a purpose. Fall’s formula was: CI (counterinsurgency) = PA (political action) + CO (counter-guerrilla operations) + CA (civic action).
Today on Fox News Sunday (FNS) I watched O’Hanlon and Pollack seek to elaborate the perforce abbreviated message of their NY Times oped last week.
What they said (again) was that during their recent trip to Iraq they saw a pronounced improvement in security in Anbar brought on by greatly improved CO (counter-guerrilla operations) in both Anbar and in parts of the big towns. In Anbar the tactic of helping the Sunni Arab tribals clear their zones (dirah) of AQinM interference has prospered thus far. It would be interesting to know who the Americans are who are "brokering" the deals. In the big towns the sheer military weight of increased US combat forces is "holding down" the level of visible warfare among the factions. Continued success in this "urban" effort will depend on the possibility of transferring responsibility for these newly quiescent neighborhoods to the Iraqi security forces. So far, that has not been possible in more than a few places.
They both said that for them success in Iraq now amounts to enough stabilization to allow our orderly departure.
Towards the end of the FNS interview both men said that in the part of Fall’s formulation that concerns PA (political action) there has been NO, ZERO, NOTHING. In other words the Maliki government has not made any progress at all towards national reconciliation. They further say that they see no prospect for movement towards national reconciliation in Iraq under Malikis rule but that it would be folly for the United States to attempt to cause his removal.
In other words, they and I have much the same opinion. People on the left who greeted the NY Times oped with great agitation were mistaken in their reaction. The piece and the FNS interview today should be seen as deserved praise for long awaited comprehension of "this kind of war" by the US military. At the same time the esoteric meaning (attention straussians) of their exposition is that without an Iraqi government that wants inter-communal reconciliation there will be no peace in Iraq. pl
PS. Bernard Fall died in Vietnam, in the field with US troops in 1967. He stepped on a mine in the Street Without Joy.