“Serving Patriot” on “The Old Guns are..”

This was a Comment from "Serving Patriot."  It is so striking that I have made it a posting in its own right.  Pat Lang

"Someone said it upthread that this is a tactical view of the scene lacking in operational/strategic dimension. That is very true.

The commentary that the bulk of insurgency is made up of foreign fighters is disturbing. But, it is unrealistic. Perhaps it is a regional (Anbar) perspective. It is a valuable window into what our troops in the field are being told. It seems thier perception is that they can win even in an attrition battle (so long as the "hated" media doesn’t lose the home front war for them). These perceptions must be fed by higher ups in the C-o-C. The question I have is this a deliberate falsehood or one borne of ignorance of the environment?

"Jordan’s" opinion squares closely with a recent conversation I had with a field grade officer (recently returned) who is convinced we can WIN if only the "cuffs would come off" and we could get the "2,000 guys" we "know are at the heart of the insurgency." (Of course, this officer could not tell me how reliably (or even how) we know about thes 2000 leaders.) This same officer recognizes the mendacity of our entry into this war and is appalled by the incompetence displayed by NCA-level in failing to provide for proper post conflict planning. But, he still thinks we can win.

However, it just is not logical to me that the level of insurgency in Iraq is only supported by outside agents (foreigners) who are distinct from and (supposedly) hated by the Iraqi people themselves. If the Iraqis themselves are so heavily armed and angry, seems that they would take care of this foreigner problem on their own. I have no doubt that an Iraqi (of any ethnicity) knows when a foreign fighter (be it Egyptian, Saudi, Iranian, or Syrian) is in their midst. That these few fighters (even our own Coalition acknowledges less than a couple hundred killed/captured) are endowed with such capability is unrealistic. (Perhaps when our forces leave the locals will take care of the foreign element since the one target the two groups can agree on – Coalition troops – will be gone.)

Due to ignorance and deliberate misinformation, our folks believe they continue to fight the ever present "AQ" enemy in Iraq. Almost none of our troops speak Arabic, understand Iraqi history, or tribal culture. The average soldier could never tell the difference between a Syrian, Iranian, Egyptian or Iraqi – to them they are all "Jihadis" and deserving of a trip to an "AWR". Raised in a anti-Muslim, anti-Arab worldview shaped by 25 years of one-sided stories (Iran hostages, Beruit, GW I, Palestinians, terrorism, etc), they are easily swayed to the belief they are fighting "ragheads" not worthy of their respect. It is easy for them to believe that AQ is everywhere in Iraq and going at them in a climactic battle against the great satan.

Our troops need to have these perceptions to justify to themsleves their continued presence in a losing campaign and gives them the needed morale to go on.

However, the high command should know better. They have either 1) deluded themselves into a similar opinion of the insurgency that are evidenced by their troops, 2) know the truth but cannot believe it (or talk about it), or 3) are completely ignorant (or fed untruths by our local allies like Kurds) of the reality they inhabit. Many future history books will try to figure this piece out.

Thanks for the read – it was a good one – and disturbing. One one hand, I am heartened that our troops remain focussed on winning. But I worry when the loss comes and the truth is laid bare, how much damage (not just physical) will be done to our professional military. Those that serve deserve much much better than that."

Serving Patriot

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15 Responses to “Serving Patriot” on “The Old Guns are..”

  1. Curious says:

    ~~~However, the high command should know better. They have either 1) deluded themselves into a similar opinion of the insurgency that are evidenced by their troops, 2) know the truth but cannot believe it (or talk about it), or 3) are completely ignorant (or fed untruths by our local allies like Kurds) of the reality they inhabit. Many future history books will try to figure this piece out.~~~
    Maybe because the high command themselves are isolated and have limited experiance fighting afghanistan/Soviet style guerilla war?
    eg. If a high commander see a town taken over by ‘elusive foreigners’, they decide to attack the town, then afterward the town is ‘silenced’ for months, then in their mind the strategy works. Operationally speaking, the town is subdued. (fallujah, Qaim, several border towns, border towns in Syria etc.)
    Fallujah is certainly silenced. But somebody fail to analyze what becomes of the Fallujah population.
    To the central command, the entire idea is area control. To Al qaeda it’s public perception and resentment.
    my observation how the insurgency operate:
    1. come into town,
    2. start weakening government aparatus, create resentment in population, then attract attention of occupation troop. (essentially political campaign against central gov. and occupation force)
    3. occupation troop will then come in. Sooner or later mistakes, mis understanding and heavy handedness happens.
    4. population sympathy is lost.
    5. Troops panic and smash the city.
    6. the city dies, causing internal displacement.
    7. this then spread to other town. (more resentments and enlarging the size of guerilla)
    ad infinitum.
    It all started with Fallujah. Now all Syrian border towns are in such condition.
    I think what makes the commanders think they are winning is the pace. They are winning the battle and achieve tranquility for months. That create a sense of ‘achieving goal’. At the same time, they fail to see crumbling civilian central governments and ever more towns sentiments turning against them. The guerilla time table is ‘seasonal’ spanning 3-6months per cycle.
    Essentially, commanders are thinking in 1-2 rounds knock out punch in a game.
    The guerillas are thinking at tournaments levels. They keep tossing middling players at each game. knowing our force is not designed to occupy a large state for decades. (no force is capable to do that, soviet/afghanistan experiances tell them so)
    So essentially, yes we are winning by knocking out those little towns. But at the expense of ever larger public resentment, deteriorating civil order and weakening central government control.
    Those are the things Al Qaeda wants.
    The only solution is to have legitimate government in the eyes of Iraqis, whereby countering the growing legitimay of insurgency.
    The commanders fail the political game. (can’t blame them, they are trained to go to war, not understanding subtleties of speeched at the mosques)

  2. citizen k says:

    Even “jordan” says that there are not enough troops to win. Since there are no more troops, he means we have lost.
    And the reference to permanent US military bases is the taboo issue of this war. If it were made clear that the “planners” intend on a permanent US garrison in Iraq, the debate would have been very different. As of now, only the looney left has made this point, everyone else tries to pretend it’s a PR issue.

  3. monty says:

    On Falluja this guy does some reporting:
    He is pro troop, stresses over and over again their discipline, lack of atrocities and victories, but overall he is pessimistic.

  4. It amazes me how much like Viet Nam this opera has become. The attitude of the grunts is exactly the same, only the name of the enemy has changed.
    I pray that we will not see another Tet offensive break the will of our military. It won’t be the will of the grunt that matters. The fact that the commanders have lost another war because they did not heed the lessons of their previous loss will be what’s talked about.
    Will it matter that it was a mendacious war?
    Or will being bested by guerillas time and time again be the millstone around our necks?

  5. W. Patrick Lang says:

    Soldiers are always the same if they come from the same population and are led in much the same way.
    I don’t know if you were in VN but the Tet Offensive did not have much psychological effect on the troops. What killed their morale was the loss of civilian morale in the states. pl

  6. monty says:

    It does bother me that after 40 years we still face jamming issues with the M-16.
    I’m not sure that there is any one thing that “the troops” believe. Lots of variety, here’s a sampling.
    Also some troop blogs pretty far down on the left:

  7. monty says:

    I just read some of my links.
    The city of San Antonio is refusing to let veterans of *all wars* continue their march through Texas to show how far the nearest VA hospital is from a huge cluster of veterans.
    The mayors email is listed in this post:

  8. Serving Patriot says:

    Thanks for the elevation. I did not expect such an honor.
    For Curious – Thanks also for your comment re: high commanders and the current insurgency operations. I appreciate your feedback! And you very well may be right regarding the capacity of our senior leadership to understand what really is going on around them. Given the amount of professional military education these senior officers should have received in thier career, it is still astounding the general obtuseness many display in thier counter-insurgency fight.
    Your description of the the insurgent operational campaign plan is very concise and simple…and the more I think about it, the more obvious it is. Why can’t the senior military leadership understand it? Maybe it is becuase they are so ill equipped. (Perhaps, unlike my brush with PME, they did not have to read “The Bear went over the Mountain”?)
    And you are absolutely correct when you say “those are the things Al Qaeda wants.”

  9. J Thomas says:

    The comment that the insurgents are very careless with their computers, that we find lots of computers that give us important intel bothers me a lot.
    Any chance that they’re disinforming us that way? A few less-than-$1000 laptops or whatever, full of the names of people that killing or detaining will backfire on us….
    I wonder how good we are at interpreting those things. Do we have enough capable arabic-speaking guys to study that data with all the attention it deserves?

  10. W. Patrick Lang says:

    J Thomas
    In re Arabic speakers, I take that as a joke.
    I found the reference to Google Earth as a reconnaissance and planning tool to be worrisome. pl

  11. J Thomas says:

    Colonel Long, obviously I don’t know what’s going on and my imagination fills in the gaps.
    I imagine a US raid capturing a computer. And some extremely-overworked US translator (not a hired arab translator) looks at it and finds a list of safe houses and sends the list on to the guys who raid safe houses. They raid the first house on the list and find a family living there and a couple of young men who might not be part of the family and they do a quick field interrogation, and later it turns out it was the Deputy Prime Minister’s nephews and he’s extremely and publicly upset.
    Where somebody who was very fluent and who had plenty of sleep and sufficient time might have sensed it was a fake.
    I can’t be too concerned about Google Earth for military purposes. It’s a composite of pictures up to 3 years old. A minority of the buildings in iraq on Google maps won’t be there any longer.

  12. W. Patrick Lang says:

    J Thomas
    Actually, my name is Lang.
    The issue about Google Earth has nothing to do with buildings in Iraq and everything to do with terrain analysis as a part of operational planning.
    There are virtually no US Military translators who can deal with hand written notes or other documents in Arabic. If there are any, they are Arab born. As a result we are VERY dependent on “hired” Arab translators working for contracter companies like CACI and Titan. Your scenario therefore has no basis in reality. pl

  13. J Thomas says:

    Colonel Lang (sorry about that, I’ve made that mistake twice now and I think it’s in the fingers more than the mind, I’ll try to proofread better),
    I see nothing particularly ominous in the iraqis having good maps of their own terrain.
    And if we aren’t even doing our own study of the captured computer files, that’s even worse. How likely is it we pay translators with local knowledge to evaluate the results rather than just translate? That drives up the chance we’re getting spoofed.

  14. W. Patrick Lang says:

    J Thomas
    Ever planned a ground attack? Terrain intelligence is a pre-requisite for sound planning. pl

  15. RJJ says:

    sacre merde! another serendipitous computer! was it even encrypted?

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