O’Hanlon, Pollack and Bernard Fall

Bfall_300 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.

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61 Responses to O’Hanlon, Pollack and Bernard Fall

  1. frank durkee says:

    Thanks for reiterating what we all need to pay attention to in this situation. I only wish this type of analysis were getting broader coverage and repetition. It would help all of us in our BS dectors.

  2. Frances says:

    The O’Hanlon/Pollack op-ed systematically downplayed the lack of progress on political reconciliation. Their only mention of this issue was buried at the end. To top it off, the title of the piece was “A War We Might Just Win,” despite the fact that there had been no progress whatsoever on an essential part of the plan.
    Even more annoying from the point of view of an opponent of the original invasion, O’Hanlon and Pollack tried to portray themselves as critics of the administration. Both supported the launching of this war. Pollack himself was author of an early book advocating forcible regime change in Iraq. And both supported the surge.
    People with judgment this poor should not be able to dishonestly lay claim to greater prescience than they have ever shown. Their op-ed was outrageous.
    It was good to see the two of them dialing it down a bit on FNS today, but folks with a record like theirs cannot be trusted on the war. In the end, their continued support for the war is just a fruitless search to salvage something out of their utterly destroyed professional reputations.

  3. 505th PIR says:

    Dead On. Malike’s failure provides a historical window though limited and dependent on external conditions in equal measure to internal ones for a “Nation’s Father” to emerge. It ain’t lost yet.
    Doubters beware. A short month or two ago there was no one on this blog that thought security in Iraq could be improved. It has improved and it will continue to do so overall in the coming months with a few setbacks along the way.

  4. jonst says:

    For the record I think it true to say that the title was selected by the Times. But my hunch is O’Hanlon/Pollack were happy both with the title…and the fact they could deny that it was their idea. I believe that it serves their deeper purposes with the essay. (Yes, I question their motives…for those asking)
    It totally baffles me how one could think that one could strengthen the Sunni tribal forces….and not have the Shia dominated govern take it as anything less than an extreme (and physical) threat. It seems to me to a policy DESIGNED to foil any nascent reconciliation.

  5. Montag says:

    Also, they were basing their appraisal on a very brief, “minded” visit. The proverbial Potemkin Village effect is a distinct possibility. Al Franken spends more time in Iraq entertaining the troops.
    Few people know that Moshe Dayan went to Vietnam as a war correspondent/observer in 1966. When it came time to return home he didn’t return via the U.S. as promised, because his assessment of the situation was so bleak: “the Americans are winning everything–except the war.” This was over a year before the shock of the Tet Offensive.
    Dayan prepared throroughly for the trip by meeting with French generals from their Indochina War. When one of them advised him that the trip would be a waste of time because he would see nothing, Dayan replied that at least he would see that he could not see, which would be instructive in itself–proving that in the Kingdom of the Blind the one-eyed man is King.

  6. W. Patrick Lang says:

    The Shia government will never reconcile with the Sunni Arabs from a sense of duty or generosity. They will have to feel “threatened” before they might bargain, even then, it is “iffy,” pl

  7. Babak Makkinejad says:

    Dayan also wrote a detailed account of his trip through Vietnam (in Hebrew) I should think. I do not know if an English version is available.
    I was struck by his observation of the dissonance between the high caliber of the individual US Officers and Officials and the policies themselves.

  8. Richard Whitman says:

    I feel like I am getting a PR snow job on recent reports of our “sucesses” in Iraq. Is it real??The SecDefense said today on tv that he and the JCS will be massaging the Sept Petraeus/Crocker report before it is sent to the White House and released to Congress. Get ready for some real BS.

  9. jonst says:

    Point taken..still:
    Its one thing for an adult to feel threatened…its an entirely different thing for an infant to feel threatened. The strategy seems wildly incoherent and contradictory to me.

  10. al palumbo says:

    I believe there are some pundits, experts, and talking heads that are fundamentaly misunderstanding and misrepresenting the effect of the counterinsurgency now taking place in some of the Sunni controlled areas; if in fact, we can reasonably call it a classic counterinsurgency program based on Fall’s equation.
    There has been an on going power struggle for control of this Hydra-like insurgency between some Sunni tribes, Baathist elements and AQ in I. That much is known. By arming and supporting the Sunni fighters the US is helping one insurgent group eliminate noxious competitor. God bless them. However, that doesn’t mean that the insurgency is waning or is any less lethal to US and Iraqi forces, or that our counterinsurgency is beginning to work. What we are seeing is a consolidation of power among the different insurgent groups, not a decrease in the insurgency. Make no mistake, the insurgency will continue and grow despite our efforts. Ultimately it will be left to the Shiites to deal with it along with the remnants of AQ in I. And it will be the Shiites who will determine the outcome of the civil war.
    It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Political Action component of Fall’s equation has been a failure. I wish to quote Gailbraith on the insurgency:
    “But even if Iraq’s politicians could agree on benchmarks, this wouldn’t end the insurgency or the civil war. Sunni insurgents object to Iraq being run by Shiite religious parties, which they see installed by the Americans, loyal to Iran, and wanting to define Iraq in a way that excludes the Sunnis. Sunni fundamentalists consider the Shiites apostates who deserve death, not power. The Shiites believe that their democratic majority and their historical suffering under Baathist dictatorship entitle them to rule. They are not inclined to compromise with Sunnis, whom they see as their longstanding oppressors, especially when they believe most Iraqi Sunnis are sympathetic to the suicide bombers that have killed thousands of ordinary Shiites. The differences are fundamental and cannot be papered over by sharing oil revenues, reemploying ex-Baathists, or revising the constitution. The war is not about those things.”
    So, if Galbraiths conclusions are accurate (and they do seem difficult to dispute) CI = PA + CO + CA isn’t happening and isn’t likely to happen in Iraq.
    Its striking that these experts are now defining success in Iraq as “enough stabiliization to allow our orderly departure.” I wonder what these experts think is a reasonable timetable for stabilization/orderly departure? I also wonder what these experts think the continued cost should be in blood and treasure? Finally, I wonder just how these experts hope to stabilize a country that wants to tear itself apart?
    The president and his defenders cannot come to terms with what most Americans see as an obvious fact: This war is lost and we should bring our troops home.

  11. mlaw230 says:

    It appears that we have substantively changed course, even as the decider denies it to save face. Those of us “on the left” should commend the effort.
    Although it is impossible to know the sincerety of our effort, there is at least a great deal of smoke surrounding a diplomtic “surge”.
    We often do not see our opponent’s true intentions, in this case the Iranians could ultimately be the force that compels a shia -sunni resolution. They will be our allies in 10 years, why not start now?

  12. What sort of political action could be possible under circumstances such as this:

    BAGHDAD — Iraq’s power grid is on the brink of collapse because of insurgent sabotage, rising demand, fuel shortages and provinces that are unplugging local power stations from the national grid, officials said Saturday.

    Electricity Ministry spokesman Aziz al-Shimari said power generation nationally is only meeting half the demand, and there had been four nationwide blackouts over the past two days.

    Power supplies in Baghdad have been sporadic all summer — when average daily temperatures reach between 110 and 120 degrees — and now are down to just a few hours a day, if that. The water supply in the capital has also been severely curtailed by power blackouts and cuts that have affected pumping and filtration stations.

    Karbala province south of Baghdad has been without power for three days, causing water mains to go dry in the provincial capital, the Shiite holy city of Karbala.

    Electricity shortages are a perennial problem in Iraq, even though it sits atop one of the world’s largest crude-oil reserves. The national power grid became decrepit under Saddam Hussein because his regime was under U.N. sanctions after the Gulf War and had trouble buying spare parts or equipment to upgrade the system.

    One of the biggest problems facing the national grid is the move by provinces to disconnect their power plants from the system, reducing the overall amount of electricity being generated for the entire country. Provinces say they have no choice because they are not getting as much electricity in return for what they produce, mainly because the capital requires so much power.

  13. Masif says:

    The only option the US govt has to affect success in Iraq is through military means. On political levels Iraqis and US have completely different goals: US desires a complete, if benign, control of Iraq and its resources and Iraqis will attempt to thwart that outcome, atleast politically, just because they are Iraqis and to reject any proposals from US just because they came from the occupiers. US are willing to get killed for their strategic goals but a better life for Iraqis is not one of those goals. Choice is annihilation of a significant portion of population or Hezbollah-style winning of hearts and minds. Both options are not doable.US can keep trying different tricks to divide and rule and exhaust Iraqis but seems like Iraqis are made from a different mold, and here lies the fascination with the whole affair: why haven’t they broken yet.

  14. Bobo says:

    As an amateur who believed our military policy of Containment was the right stance versus the dethroning of a problematic dictator.
    O’Hanlon and Pollack have given the military its due acknowledgement that their efforts have not been in vain. Yes, headway is being made and there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
    But Political Action is not on the horizon nor has the US given its military vast assistance building up Iraq’s political and civil processes.
    Thus our future efforts should be to pull back into a strong Containment mode and let them have at it until the new Dictator takes control.

  15. Ben P says:

    Colonel Lang,
    I have three questions to pose you:
    1) How long is the current force level sustainable? I’m hearing a draw down of some level will be necessary in early 2008.
    2) Where do you see Iraq in say 2010? My sense is that there are possible long term trajectories. That the civil war becomes more “regularized”, particularly in the urban areas in the middle of the country, as the takfiris are gradually squeezed out and the Sunni forces take on a more explicitly Ba’ath/nationalism cast fighting Mahdi army/police forces. See this Washington Post report (http://fairuse.100webcustomers.com/mayfaire/latimes40.htm) for more of what I’m getting at. I sense Maliki doesn’t fear the Anbar situation as much as he does things like the creation of “neighborhood watch” groups such as the above.
    3) Finally: to what degree is the Sunni insurgency (and I’m not talking about AQinM here) a non-tribal phenomenon. Weren’t the Baathist/Arab Nationalists ideologically anti-tribe? I notice in the latest numbers there were still over 400 attacks in Anbar province in June on US troops (down from 800 last year). Is this attributable to the lack of tribal authority in important areas of the province?

  16. Charles says:

    Apropos I reproduce below the start of today’s Juan Cole, addressing the failure of political action from some Iraqi Sunni perspectives. Political success to an Iraqi means a lot more than stabilization sufficient for orderly U.S. withdrawal. Which might not be attainable without some political solutions, surge or not.
    Local Sunni anti “Al Qaeda in Iraq ” operations are a tactical sideshow, even in the sense that they provide the press some bait and switch diversion from strategic political failures on all sides. While brainiacs parse the U.S.- Anbar Sunni relationship, the general Iraqi political failure almost cries out for total sectarian civil war as a resolution, for the moment, of the collapse of civil society and infrastructure, the rule of law, and sectarian insecurity. This must be the focus. Ergo, the screws – whatever they are – really need to be put to the Shia governing elites. The ones not in a position to flee if total civil war erupts, maybe.
    Anyway, here’s Juan’s great peek into the discussion in Arabic in al-Hayat on the occasion of another Sunni withdrawal from Parliament:

    So jonst, Dr. al-Dulaimi accuses the government of ethnic cleansing, not a bit of partisan recalcitrance. An extreme (and physical) threat to the Sunni minority, who have waited for two Shia dominated governments to establish order, security, and govern.
    We are at a stage here where an orderly armed standoff as a prelude to forced negotiations is the batna – best alternative to negotiated agreement. Like pl says, there isn’t going to be any agreement, let alone government, until the Shia are forced to share. They show no sign of doing it and the U.S. seems unable or unwilling to. Perhaps a Shia government won’t feel threatened enough to bargain until well into a U.S. withdrawal.
    “iffy” is a marvelously apt understatement of the whole assumptions thread a bit back. Let’s assume in this case nobody wants to give up power to their sectarian or political enemies. Like the Sheiks in Anbar won’t, once their latest bit of local empowerment – license to employ what they no doubt regard as liberated entitlements of tribal patrimony – is challenged by a central authority.
    And Malaki the unwilling, incapable man who nonetheless cannot be replaced. Until, I suppose, it is officially declared that the surge is won, but the center cannot hold.
    It is mind boggling – the fighting might mostly cease in the south, the surge in some sense work – tho its hard to judge the political effects of the heavy aerial bombardment often called up – but there will be no effective, never mind legitimate, government to grasp the momentum away from civil war. If it wished to.
    And here the States has no political ‘surge’ strategy – Bush’s anti-al Aqaeda success rhetoric hardly substitutes for Iraqi governance.
    What the heck do they do if they declare the surge a success? or a failure? Or the foreign fighters are greatly reduced? Surely this means that the Sunni’s will still need to exert more pressure on the Iraqi government? To establish their bona fides as a sufficient “threat’ worthy of serious negotiation after AQ had been dealt with? Because they will be the biggest elephant in the room

  17. DeLudendwarf says:

    A Little OT, but some levity:

  18. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    <"without an Iraqi government that wants inter-communal reconciliation there will be no peace in Iraq.">
    What are the options for changing the current government, one way or another? Any suitable leader — civilian or military — in the wings?

  19. geos says:

    Col. Lang,
    Given the total isolation of non-military personnel in the “Green Zone,” and the general lack of security for even the military, given the paucity of Arabic speakers, given the lack of political contacts in what used to be a closed, embargoed and isolated country, given the lack of institutional support for “political action” within the U.S. Army, what would lead anyone to think the U.S. has even the basic tools to understand the political situation in Iraq much less act within it?

  20. Cold War Zoomie says:

    The only reason this entire mess hasn’t completely disintegrated is because our military is so friggin dedicated. They keep going and going and going over there even though the civilian “leadership” and policy wonks flounder around.
    What makes my blood boil is that the incompetent baffoons who started this thing aren’t held accountable because our men and women in uniform have been able to keep the whole process limping along. As long as it’s not a complete disaster there’s always a *possibility* of success. And the baffoons can keep kicking the can down the road every 4-5 months.

  21. lina says:

    Speaking of “people on the left,” Gov. Bill Richardson looks beyond counter insurgency tactics:
    “We must remove ALL of our troops. There should be no residual US forces left in Iraq. Most Iraqis, and most others in the region, believe that we are there for their oil, and this perception is exploited by Al Qaeda, other insurgents, and anti-American Shia groups. By announcing that we intend to remove ALL troops, we would deprive them of this propaganda tool. And once all US troops are out of Iraq, Al Qaeda foreigners will no longer be able to justify their presence there, and the Iraqis will drive them out.”

  22. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Nothing wrong with being “on the left.” My use of the erm is merely descriptive. I do get a kick out of the
    Jean Jaures channeling on the part of some of the migration activists. “Workers have no borders,” etc. pl

  23. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Ben P
    I am trying to teach people to think about these things, not to think for them. pl

  24. Binh says:

    I’m on the (far) left and the O’hanlon piece won’t be remembered within six months (except when people point to the hopeless optimism of “we just might win”). All the happy talk and optimism in the world won’t change a thing on the ground over there – just ask John McCain.
    The fundamentally flawed assumption underlying the surge strategy was the idea that if only the U.S. tamp down the sectarian violence, then all the hardcore sectarian parties (Shia mainly) that the U.S. was instrumental in installing into power would make nice with the Sunnis and share some of the power. All the security in the world won’t change the fact that SIIC and Dawa do not have any interest in reconciliation at this point, and the U.S. is too politically dependent on their tacit acceptance of the occupation of the country to push them forcefully in that direction. That’s the underlying reason why Petraeus and Maliki are getting into screaming matches with one another – neither can dispense with the other and they’re stuck, sinking deeper into the quagmire.

  25. Montag says:

    You remind me of the Monty Python satire, “The Life of Brian,” about an ordinary man mistaken for The Messiah, when he clearly doesn’t want the job. At one point Brian protests against the sheeplike quality of the people who are following him–“You’ve got to think for yourselves!” he admonishes them. They immediately parrot back, “You’ve got to think for yourselves!”

  26. Sidney O. Smith III says:

    What does “political action” mean in Bernard Fall’s equation for counterinsurgency? He appears to have given us a path to follow in Chapter 15 of his book, Street without Joy. Fall relied on the British experience in Malaysia as well as the insights of General Lansdale when he stated that to win, we must accept parts of the program advocated by the enemy. If true, then “political action” is now defined as looking at the grievances of the “enemy” and then accepting the points advocated by the enemy that in no way effect our national security interests. Basically, political action, in part, is stealing the enemy’s ideological thunder.
    If you pitch counterinsurgency beyond national boundaries, then, in my opinion, it becomes obvious that we are not fulfilling the all important requirement of “political action”. And without that part of the equation fulfilled, then odds increase we’ll lose, despite the extraordinary work of the USM in satisfying the other parts of the CI equation.
    To best analyze the “program advocated by the enemy” perhaps a good place to start is Bin Laden’s fatwa’s. Is Al-Q advocating a defensive jihad — as Scheuer says — or an offensive jihad? If Scheuer is correct (on that specific point), then what parts of the enemy’s program can we accept that in no way endanger the US national security interests?
    In my opinion, General Petraeus is in a position where he can fulfill the requirement of “political action” when he reports back in Sept. The entire world — including our enemies — will be watching and listening, and I merely suggest for consideration that his testimony is a good example of pitching COIN beyond national and institutional boundaries, for it will represent a golden opportunity for the people and the USM to emerge on the same side of the struggle. His testimony would be of historical significance if he defined “political action” along the same lines as proposed here.
    My guess is that Victor Hanson and his epigones will do everything possible to define “political action” in vasty different terms.

  27. lina says:

    Re “workers have no borders,” as a resident of So. Calif., I can assure the followers of J. Jaures, there are plenty of borders for workers, however most of them are quite porous. There are those gated communities so easily traversed when your job is to come in and do the gardening.

  28. Peter Principle says:

    “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.”
    How much praise is merited, given that the same military’s record in the first four years of the war was one of almost unmitigated failure? Now that domestic support for the war has virtually collapsed, isn’t it a little late to be handing the Army brownie points for finally realizing just how badly it screwed up?

  29. jb vanover says:

    Remember that the decider was fuzzy on the whole shia/sunni thing at the beginning of this. Hoodwinked by smarter more malign forces.
    How to stop the killing has to be absolutely top priority. By whatever means necessary, begin the bartering with axis of evil types and supposed allies.
    Profound pessimism must be the prognosis with these moroniacs still plaguing the executive branch.

  30. walrus says:

    Trying to think outside the square, I wonder if a radical rethink along the following lines might not only work, but be politically acceptable to Iraqis and perhaps even ordinary Americans (but not the Neocons or their supporters and backers)
    1. Accept the legitimacy of all the militias and their associated political wings, but not Al Qaeeda and similar groups.
    Acceptance is conditional on cooperation in security activities, including preventing attacks on U.S. forces. Proving membership of a militia is sufficient to justify weapon ownership.
    Integrate the militias and the Iraqi army as far as possible. Where its not possible, disband the army units and rely on militia.
    In effect, we are extending the “Anbar model” if what is portrayed in the media about Anbar is correct.
    2. Require the militias to engage in the political process as a condition. Apply liberal amounts of grease.
    3. Require that militia on militia violence is to cease. Dispute resolution process required backed up by U.S. Forces.
    Recognize that Iraq is going to be governed by Shia and that figures like Sadr are going to be part of it – in other words, co-opt him and those like him.
    Provide American security guarantees to Sunni and Kurds. By this I mean that the only sure thing in Iraq will be that militia on militia violence will bring down the wrath of the U.S.A., probably best in a collective responsibility type of way.
    We have a State Department to do this political stuff – let them get their teeth into it. Bring in the U.N. as well.
    If thought necessary by the State Department, and along the lines of Col. Langs suggestions, arrange a tripartite or quadripartite (or sextopartite?)treaty between Saudis, Iran, Jordan, Syria, Turkey and whoever else required (U.S.? Russia? China? the EU?), that guarantees Iraq’s borders and the rights of the Sunni, Shia and Kurds.
    The price for this will be recognition of Iran’s nuclear program and the dumping of Israel in the mire it so richly deserves.
    Effectively take a passive role and leave them to their own devices – except for enforcing the “no militia violence” rule and chasing whats left of Al Qaeeda etc. that doesn’t qualify as “regular” militia.
    Agree to leave Iraq when the militias, through their political wings, unanimously request us to leave.
    I predict the shock of being left to their own devices will have a salutary and pacifying effect.

  31. johnf says:

    On the day that the percentage of Americans believing the surge is working has risen from 21-ish percent to 31, five independent MPs resign from the Iraqi government.
    There’s the war in Iraq and there’s the war in Washington over whose going to control the American people.

  32. Homer says:

    505th PIR: Malike’s failure
    Try `refusal’!
    With steady and direct support from Iran and Syria, Al-Maliki, al-Hakim, Bayan Jabr, et al have been fighting for over the last ***two decades*** to transform a secular Iraq into Islamic state.
    With that being so, why would anyone expect or even imagine that al-Maliki, et al would successfully enact the US’ directives?
    These guys are `balls deep’ in Iran and Syria: So it is just silly to label al-Maliki a failure for not enacting the US’ directives.
    If I may, why the fuck would al-Maliki enact the US’s directive?

  33. Bruce Wilder says:

    “They both said that for them success in Iraq now amounts to enough stabilization to allow our orderly departure.”
    It is nice that you heard this. I heard a call for more Friedman Units, and a prologue to a stab-in-the-back theory of withdrawal.

  34. Homer says:

    Charles: And Malaki the unwilling, incapable man who nonetheless cannot be replaced.
    Perhaps “unwilling” is best.
    Its payback time for the US.
    How so?
    Back in 1991 when Saddam Hussein was gassing `freedom fighters’, the Bush I admin basically pissed on Al-Maliki.
    Bush warns Iraq on chemical arms U.S. fears use of weapons against rebels. Chicago Tribune. March 10, 1991 [snip]
    Jawad al-Maliki of the Dawa Party said in Damascus, Syria, that mustard gas was used against protesters in al-Haleh, al-Kifil, Najaf and some
    areas of Basra, in southeastern Iraq.
    Precisely what is going on inside Iraq is difficult to determine since Western reporters have been expelled. Most information is coming from refugees and opposition leaders in Iran and Syria.
    Defense Secretary Dick Cheney described the situation as “volatile” but said it appears Hussein will be able to keep the unrest in check for
    The Iraqi leader is using his loyal Republican Guard to quell the rebellion.

  35. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Are you really quoting a statement of the Dawa Party as evidence? pl

  36. W. Patrick Lang says:

    What are “Friedman units?” pl

  37. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Most of the troops used to suppress the ’91 uprising were Shia. pl

  38. Clifford Kiracofe says:

    On a different thread, I noted conversations I had in Malaysia in the 1980s with retired security officials who dealt with their problem in the 50s.
    “Flies breed in dung” was the phrase I remember best from one retired official. The condition of the people has to improve so they feel better off and more secure was the message, as I took it, with respect to the civic action dimension. So how do Iraqis feel generally these days?
    Does this apply to Afghanistan also? A buddy of mine with extensive operational experience over a couple of decades in that area indicated to me back in 2002 his view that the US needed to deliver on some infrastructure and related socio-economic issues. Have we? Do people feel better off since the US intervention?
    Can we consider anti-AQ actions in Anbar “successes” if the US opened the door for them to enter Iraq in the first place? Seems to me this action is more along the lines of dealing with unintended consequences of our mistaken Neocon-incited intervention/”preventive war”.
    I will try to locate a friend of mine who was a French journalist with assignments in Vietnam. She knew Fall and her insights on the Iraq “sitaution”/Vietnam might be of interest to SST folks.
    I just dug out my copy of A.M. Savani, Visage et Images du Sud Viet-Nam (Imprimerie Francais d’Outre-Mer Saigon, 1955). Owned by a John H. Cleveland/Quang Trung at one point. Quite interesting coverage of the various sects…

  39. GSD says:

    Col. Lang,
    NY Times columnist Thomas Friedman was noted by several savvy bloggers to have been advocating a strategy of ‘waiting to see what happens in the next 6 months’ in Iraq.
    He had been advocating waiting to see what happens in the ‘next six months’ from shortly after the war began until sometime in 2006 when someone compiled the list of ‘wait untils’. So a Friedman Unit is considered a six month period.

  40. small axe says:

    One “Friedman unit” = 6 months, as in “the next six months will be absolutely crucial, and we’ll all know if the war is won or lost at the end of that period of time.”

  41. PSD says:

    1 Friedman unit = 6 months
    as in Tom Friedman, that prognosticator of prognosticators, writing, “we need to give it another 6 months before we decide to think about withdrawing……”

  42. Peter Principle says:

    Friedman Units — a phrase, first coined by the bloggger Atrios, now used generally in Left Blogistan as a synonym for “six months.”
    Atrios was commenting on the now familiar tendency for Tom Friedman and other pro-war pundits to argue that it will take at lesat another six months to make any progress in Iraq — or, alternatively, that we should wait another six months before deciding that the war is definitely lost.
    It’s kind of a new take on the old Soviet joke that communism is just on the horizon — the punchline being that the horizon is an imaginary line that recedes endlessly as one approaches it.

  43. Homer says:

    pl: Are you really quoting a statement of the Dawa Party as evidence
    I am pointing out the following:
    1) To the international media, al-Maliki was publically calling attention to the gassing of rebels: “A Shiite Iraqi opposition figure, Jawad al-Maliki of the ad-Dawa party,
    accused Saddam of using helicopter gunships, heavy artillery and poisonous mustard gas to crush uprisings.”
    2) At the time, al-Maliki’s words fell upon deaf ears: “Defense Secretary Dick Cheney described the situation as “volatile” but said it appears Hussein will be able to keep the unrest in check for now.”
    3) With these two points in mind and the twenty plus years of co-operation of Iran, Syria, al-Dawa, SCIRI, et al, I am saying it cannot be that al-Maliki is failing to enact the US’ directives, it is that he is, to the grave detriment of the US, refusing to `stick a dagger in the back of Iran and Syria’.
    As you know better than I, these al-Dawa, SCIRI, et al have never been pro-American.
    With these guys lying in wait in and launching attacks against SH now and then from Iran, how could anyone ever think that they are going to instantly set aside their decades old dream to Islamicize Iraq and then immediately begin to start embracing American values, to become poodles of the US?
    1) Beirut Bombers Seen Front for Iranian-Supported Shiite Faction, The Washington Post, January 4, 1984
    The terrorist group that claimed responsibility for the bombing of the U.S. Marine compound and the French military headquarters here may be a front for an exiled Iraqi Shiite opposition party based in Iran, in the view of a number of Arab and western diplomatic sources.
    Authorities in Kuwait say their questioning of suspects in the recent bombing there of the U.S. and French embassies indicates a clear link between Islamic Jihad, a shadowy group that says it carried out the Beirut attacks, and Al Dawa Islamiyah, the main source of resistance to the government of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
    Al Dawa (The Call) has been outlawed in Iraq, where it wants to establish a fundamentalist Islamic state to replace the secular Baath Socialist government of Saddam Hussein, who is a Sunni Moslem.
    It draws its strength from the large Shiite population in southern Iraq. Thousands of its most militant members were expelled to Iran in 1980 before the outbreak of the Iranian-Iraqi war and joined Al Dawa there. But it also has a large following in Lebanon among Iraqi exiles and sympathetic Lebanese Shiites.
    While Al Dawa operates out of Tehran, it is not clear whether its activities abroad are under direct Iranian control or merely have Iran’s tacit acceptance.
    2) U.S. Feels Out Iran Groups Trying to Oust Iraqi Leader. Wall Street Journal. July 31, 1998 [snip]
    Hamad Al-Bayati, a Sciri representative in London, says his group doesn’t want U.S. funds, and, “We have doubts about the seriousness of
    the administration.”
    Dr. Al-Bayati, who met with Mr. Indyk last month in Washington, says the
    U.S. should crack down on Iraqi human-rights violations as hard as it cracks down on Iraq’s weapons programs.
    For example, he says, when two Shiite religious leaders were assassinated in southern Iraq, the U.S. was silent.
    A State Department official says the U.S. had prepared a condemnation, but the issue never came up in news briefings.
    3) Iraqi Shi’i Opposition Leader Visits Syria and Lebanon, Praises Kuwaiti
    Support BBC. February 27, 2000 [snip]
    Hakim, meanwhile, criticized the American plan to remove Saddam Husayn from power.
    “This plan is vague and lacks support to thefield issue,” he said.
    The plan, said Hakim, did not consider the protection of the Iraqi people, the opposition operations nor the field and practical issues.
    He said the Iraqi people were doing “a wide and active” operations but they were facing relentless oppression.
    “Among the obstacles facing the Iraqi people to remove their regime is the international position which does not care with the humanitarian side, oppression and the destruction of the weapons of mass destruction,”
    he said.

  44. Homer says:

    pl: Most of the troops used to suppress the ’91 uprising were Shia.
    Please elaborate

  45. Friedman (unit)

    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    The Friedman, or Friedman Unit (F.U.), is a tongue-in-cheek neologism coined by blogger Atrios (Duncan Black) on May 21, 2006.[1] A Friedman is a unit of time equal to six months.[2][3][4][5][6][7][8] The Huffington Post cited it as the “Best New Phrase” of 2006.[9]

    The term is in reference to a May 16, 2006 article by Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) detailing journalist Thomas Friedman’s repeated use [10] of “the next six months” as the period in which, according to Friedman, “we’re going to find out…whether a decent outcome is possible” in the Iraq War. As documented by FAIR, Friedman had been making such six-month predictions for a period of two and a half years, on at least fourteen different occasions, starting with a column in the November 30, 2003 edition of The New York Times, in which he stated: “The next six months in Iraq—which will determine the prospects for democracy-building there—are the most important six months in U.S. foreign policy in a long, long time.”[11]

    The term has been used in general to describe any pronouncement of a critical period for the U.S. occupation of Iraq.[7] Such pronouncements have been made by numerous politicians and military officials involved in the war.[12]


  46. Frances says:

    Col. Lang,
    The “Friedman Unit” is so named in honor of NYT columnist Thomas Friedman’s steady willingness to proclaim the next six months “make or break” time in Iraq and then, when that six months has expired, to grant yet another six months before pronouncing any judgment on the success or failure of the enterprise. There’s actually a wikipedia entry on the term: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Friedman_(unit).

  47. Yohan says:

    Col. Lang:
    Friedman Unit.
    I completely agree with BW in that O’Hanlon and Pollack’s recent agitprop has much more to do with the PR battle in Washington than it does with the actual battles in Iraq. Their piece is part of a concerted effort to convince enough people(esp enough senators and congressmen) to stay the course by the time the Swedishly massaged September “progress report” is pitched. Numerous Republicans have hinted both in public and private that bad news in September will give them the excuse they need to jump ship and go along with the Democrats withdrawal plan, making for a veto-proof majority. O’Hanlon and Pollack, among many others, are trying to invent enough hope of “victory” to keep those Republicans scared of political heat so that they keep toeing the Bush line of “just a little bit longer…just a little bit longer…just a little bit longer…”
    The facts on the ground continue to indicate failure, but that won’t matter if the spinmasters once again work their magic on an ever-credulous American public. Even if they don’t succeed in holding off withdrawal, they will succeed in planting the seeds of another Dolchstosslegende, “We were just about to win when those treacherous and cowardly Democrats snatched defeat from the jaws of victory!”

  48. Homer says:

    E tu Talabani?
    Iranian interference in Iraq an “out of date” myth: Talabani
    TEHRAN, July 29 (MNA) — Iraqi President Jalal Talabani has said the accusations that Iran supports Iraqi militias is out of date, probably part of the ancient history.
    In an interview with the U.S. Al Hurra TV last week, Talabani explained that it took Iraqi officials lots of effort to broker a face-to-face dialogue between Iran and the United States leading to the establishment of a trilateral security committee between U.S., Iran and Iraq.
    “Our brothers in Tehran have clearly declared that it was at the request of Iraqi officials that they accepted to sit on the same table with the American diplomats,” Talabani told Al Hurra network.
    The Iraqi president noted that Iran had formerly rejected such a suggestion.
    “In my opinion the Baghdad meeting had a good result, namely the establishment of a trilateral committee,” Talabani stated.
    He said the Iranians have promised to help Iraq in fighting al Qaeda-backed terrorism and help prevent instability and insecurity caused by the militias.
    On rebuilding the army, the president said Iraq wants an army which defends the borders and provides security for the Iraqi nation and not an army which attacks Iran or goes to war with Turkey or makes threats against Syria.
    He also called the victory of the Justice and Development Party in Turkey, a victory for all regional countries including Iraq and Iran

  49. walrus says:

    A “Freidman” is six months, named after the journalist of the same name who has predicted radical improvement “in the next six months” in a plethora of articles since we invaded.

  50. Edward Merkle says:

    Let’s see, we have a piece called “A War We Might Just Win”, by two “liberal” scholars, who describe “winning” as “…enough stabilization to allow our orderly departure.”
    We have the siting of Bernard Fall “… perhaps the greatest historian of the era of counterinsurgency.” Fall’s equation: CI (counterinsurgency) = PA (political action) + CO (counter-guerrilla operations) + CA (civic action).
    Patrick Lang points out limited, unsure success of one right-side-quantity of the equation: CI (“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.”) A mention of “ZERO” for the second value of Fall”s equation, and no mention of the third variable “CA.” Finally a scolding for those on the left who are “agitated” by concluding “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.”–after four years, 3,000 American deaths, and $500 billion.
    Sir you do have a sharp satiric wit.

  51. confusedponderer says:

    I think some people have a problem with O’Hanlon’s and Pollacks view because they feel the war was illegitimate and foolish to begin with. To see the US ‘winning’ would mean to see the Bushies not only vindicated but confirmed in this sort of adventurism, with the only lessons drawn from this debacle is ‘how to do it better the next time’ rather than staying out of it. In that sense a ‘victory’ or something spun like that might not in America’s best interest.
    I mean, the bully on the block (just descriptive of how the US got into Iraq) does something really stupid, hurts a lot of people, destroys untold amounts of property, and get’s away? What’s the moral of that story?
    I agree with that in the absence of a major political reform in Iraq the ‘sectarian violence’ will not go away, no matter how many fights the US win. As to which degree the US are indeed succeeding I cannot say. Maybe they are indeed progressing.
    That would mean that, how heavy handed the US originally have been some people seem to have learned and made progress. Good! But sadly that sort of learning seems to be limited to the professional military who have to learn to survive and fight and not so much to the politicos, who have been recently seen speculating about invading Pakistan. I do not even want to think of what other silly ideas a victory in Iraq would implant into their brains. Probably America is just a tad too powerful for its own good!?
    That the only thing that would make the Shia cave in to the Sunni demands is to feel sufficiently threatened by the Sunnis is outright scary. It would mean that until then a lot more blood will have to be spilled and suggest as a new US approach supporting the Iraqi Sunni against the Shia. It is pretty clear that this isn’t going to end once AQoM is defeated. What after that? Nobody tell this Elliot Abrams, or he’ll start to drool, just in case he isn’t already.
    For heaven’s sake, I hope they go make a deal with Iran before they indeed succeed in conjuring up a Shia-Sunni clash all over the Middle East as a ‘strategy’ to ‘isolate and roll back Iran’.
    So what I hope for is a quick exit from Iraq that isn’t particularly glorious but smooth enough, and that would pre-empt further omnipotence phantasies and compel the US into a broker role they are unlikely to take up on their own.

  52. Lee says:

    Friedman unit=6mo. As in “the next six months are critical”,,repeated every four months by columnist of the same name.

  53. myth says:

    “What are “Friedman units?” pl”
    A “Friedman unit” is 6 months. Since after the invasion of Iraq, Thomas Friedman of the New York Times has been saying “the next six months is the most critical time for US in Iraq.”

  54. b says:

    Friedman unit
    A Friedman is a unit of time equal to six months.
    The term is in reference to a May 16, 2006 article by Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) detailing journalist Thomas Friedman’s repeated use of “the next six months” as the period in which, according to Friedman, “we’re going to find out…whether a decent outcome is possible” in the Iraq War. As documented by FAIR, Friedman had been making such six-month predictions for a period of two and a half years, on at least fourteen different occasions, …

  55. jonst says:

    A “friedman unit” is a derisive term that refers to Tom Friedman’s habit (started years ago)of noting that ‘the next six months are the key in Iraq’ and implying that if things don’t get better by then we better eye the exits. A ‘unit’ would come and go….and another would be proclaimed. Its a plea really ‘just give me six more months time and I can stop drinking…if not, I swear its off to Betty Ford. ‘

  56. jonst says:

    So, one thing we can say…we all know what a Friedman unit is by god!

  57. Montag says:

    At least Colonel Lang didn’t share the experience of Saladin asking for a drink of water during a staff meeting–to no response. He didn’t suffer the indignity of having to ask twice, either.

  58. PSD says:

    and I daresay so does Col. Lang!
    (i particularly like the abbreviation of a “Friedman Unit” as an “FU”)

  59. “Doubters beware. A short month or two ago there was no one on this blog that thought security in Iraq could be improved.”
    Wrong. I wrote before the surge, I believe even here, that the surge would “work,” and it wouldn’t matter. It appears that the U.S. Congressional leadership understood this same thing by March or April, which is why Pelosi called the President “cynical,” and the White House called her remark “poisonous.” The troops are being used cynically, and the U.S. public is being misled cynically.
    The White House doesn’t want to tell you that their ONLY plan is invent new reasons every three months — whether tactical or strategic reasons, it doesn’t matter — simply to stay in Iraq, no matter what happens. Because this always successfully confuses and misleads Tom Friedman with two falsehoods per Friedman unit. This has been going on successfully for over four years now, although the U.S. public seems to be waking up.
    The primary geostrategic concern is Iranian proximity to the Iraqi oil fields. And the fact that the biggest fields are sat on by the Shia, whose religious friends are in Iran.
    The issue as to what Iraq is supposed to look like has become secondary — or it always HAS been secondary, from the way the Bremer Proconsulate acted. You would have to first answer how a religious difference going back centuries and still the continuing cause of so much murder could be easily salved. And you would have to answer why ANY American serious believes that the White House serious believes that a TRUE democracy in Iraq would approve an oil law giving sweet long-term deals to U.S. oil companies. Surely the White House has never believed this.
    Asking for a “Nation’s Father” to come out of this is asking him to lose his head. To conclude, as the man says at the end of The Bridge on the River Kwai: “Madness!”

  60. Arun says:

    Greenwald on O’Hanlon and Pollack
    Last Wednesday, I interviewed Michael O’Hanlon of the Brookings Institution regarding the trip he recently took to Iraq and the highly publicized Op-Ed in the New York Times about his trip, co-written with his Brookings colleague, Ken Pollack. The full transcript of the interview, which lasted roughly 50 minutes, can be read here.
    O’Hanlon’s answers, along with several other facts now known, demonstrate rather conclusively what a fraud this Op-Ed was, and even more so, the deceitfulness of the intense news coverage it generated.

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