Wednesday, July 23, 2008

“It’s Not Just Troops, It’s an Overall Strategy”

Original Link:

By SusanUnPC

Barack Obama, who has no experience with or in the U.S. military, seems to think military requirements are solely this: “[Y]ou tell me what it is that we need in terms of boots on the ground, in terms of equipment, in terms of other capabilities that are gonna be required.” To Obama, the military is “man and machine.”

It is obvious that Barack Obama doesn’t know the full history behind the political successes achieved by our military concurrent with the “surge” in troop numbers.

It is clear Barack Obama doesn’t realize that many of our nation’s most insightful historians and political and social scientists are in the military, and that it was their input that has been key to quelling much of the violence in Iraq. See Larry Johnson’s August 2007 story, “The Success in Al Anbar” in which Larry posits that “[t]he success achieved in Al Anbar has nothing to do with the surge and everything to do with finally tapping into genuine experts who know and understand Iraq.” Larry quotes an essential story by Walter Pincus in the Washington Post that credits a 300-page report, “Iraq Tribal Study: Al-Anbar Governorate,” that was “put together by a distinguished group of retired military counterinsurgency specialists and academics, each with Iraq experience [and] was circulated in the Army’s Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., at the time led by then-Lt. Gen. David H. Petraeus.”

Pincus writes that “the support of Sunni tribal leaders against al-Qaeda in Iraq,” which is “hailed as one of the few successes from the U.S. troop increase this year,” came from the Iraq Tribal Study which “provided a handbook on how to gain that support by covering the basics.”

How I wish I’d been Katie Couric, just for yesterday. I would have asked Obama:

How much influence did the Pentagon report, Iraq Tribal Study: Al-Anbar Governorate,’ have on the successes you’ve attributed solely to the Sunni leaders? You told ABC News that you “did not anticipate … the convergence of not only the surge but the Sunni Awakening in which a whole host of Sunni tribal leaders decided that they had had enough with Al-Qaeda, in the Shiia community the militias standing down to some degrees.”

You also said, “So what you had is a combination of political factors inside of Iraq that then came right at the same time as terrific work by our troops.”

You seem to overlook the direct role that the U.S. military’s distinguished analysts played in the “Sunni Awakening” and the “political factors” — and that the military leadership studied this report and implemented its recommendations “on the ground” in Iraq. Sen. McCain knows this history.

MY PREDICTION: Barack Obama has never heard of the “Iraq Tribal Study” and doesn’t know the authors. He would stumble through an answer but would be essentially stumped.

His remarks indicate that he believes the Sunni leaders decided, entirely on their own, to band together, and that he is unaware of the role of the military’s best thinkers in making that happen.

Larry also reports that Walter Pincus’s editors wouldn’t allow him to identify the contributors to the Iraq Tribal Study, so Larry did. Among those contributors is Larry’s longtime friend and mentor, Patrick Lang. Larry lists the sections of the report, and closes with these remarks:

If the Department of Defense had done studies like this sooner there would be fewer dead Iraqis and Americans. As I have noted in previous blog entries, solving the immediate problem in Al Anbar does not ensure reconciliation with the Shia led government. These tribes are not friends of the Shia and do not see themselves as part of the national Iraqi government. But, at least we have a grassroots solution being put into place and the effective disengagement of U.S. troops killing Iraqis in Al Anbar. That is a step in the right direction.

It is also important to acknowledge Walter Pincus’s stories published BEFORE the Iraq War in which he pointed out the grave hazards of pursuing the ambitions of another ill-experienced president, George W. Bush, who also didn’t listen to his generals. Unfortunately, Mr. Pincus’s stories usually ended up on pages A17 or A19, while the pro-Bush administration stories got A1 treatment.

Here is more from Walter Pincus:

The Iraq Tribal Study provided a handbook on how to gain that support by covering the basics. One section, titled “How to Work With Tribesmen,” explains that “RESPECT ( Ihtiram in Arabic) is the key,” and also warns: “Do not assume that they want to be like you.”

The study summed up how the Sunni tribes viewed the conditions that Washington established in Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein. “Throughout the modern history of Iraq, the Sunni tribes have occupied a privileged position in Iraq society and enjoyed wealth, autonomy and political clout,” the report said. “To lose those advantages in a system of proportional representation that empowered the Shia, or in a truncated Iraq with a Kurdish autonomous province, would bring shame to a long and prosperous Sunni history.”

It also cautioned that the main themes of the U.S. message in Iraq — “freedom and democracy” — do not resonate well with the population “because freedom is associated with chaos in Iraq.” In addition, the Sunnis “are deathly afraid of being ruled by a Shia government, which they believe will be little more than a puppet of the Shia religious extremists in Iran.”

The study identified three tribes in al-Anbar province. … Read all.


OF NOTE: The CBS interview segments are very short. There was far more to those interviews, both of which are important to read in full:

CBS: Barack Obama, July 22, 2008
CBS: John McCain, July 22, 2008

Although I am not a declared supporter of John McCain, I give him his due for knowing the real history behind the surge and understanding the sophisticated analytical and strategic thinking that went into the “surge,” which was far more than a simple escalation in troop numbers:

Couric: Senator McCain, Sen. Obama says, while the increased number of U.S. troops contributed to increased security in Iraq, he also credits the Sunni awakening and the Shiite government going after militias. And says that there might have been improved security even without the surge. What’s your response to that?

McCain: I don’t know how you respond to something that is such a false depiction of what actually happened. Colonel McFarlane (phonetic) was contacted by one of the major Sunni sheiks. Because of the surge we were able to go out and protect that sheik and others. And it began the Anbar awakening. I mean, that’s just a matter of history. Thanks to General Petraeus, our leadership, and the sacrifice of brave young Americans. I mean, to deny that their sacrifice didn’t make possible the success of the surge in Iraq, I think, does a great disservice to young men and women who are serving and have sacrificed.

They were out there. They were protecting these sheiks. We had the Anbar awakening. We now have a government that’s effective. We have a legal system that’s working, although poorly. And we have progress on all fronts, including an incredible measure of security for the people of Iraq. There will still be attacks. Al Qaeda’s not defeated. But the progress has been immense. And to not recognize that, and why it happened, and how it happened, I think is really quite a commentary.

Couric: A commentary on what?

McCain: That Sen. Obama does not understand the challenges we face. And … not understand the need for the surge. And the fact that he did not understand that, and still denies that it has succeeded, I think the American people will make their judgment. …

Worse, Barack Obama doesn’t know about, or acknowledge, the highly influential Iraq Tribal Report that was circulated in the highest ranks of the military, and changed how the military interacted with the populace of Iraq.

As Larry Johnson just said to me on the telephone, it is very worrisome that Barack Obama thinks he is capable of making judgment calls independent of the military. Larry said, “We’ve already had one president who did that. George W. Bush. We can’t afford another.”

Lest we forget: “Wonky” Hillary does know about the Iraq Study Report. She has talked with the authors of that report. She knows a great deal about the strategy and the intelligence-gathering that is required. That is why she earned the endorsement of Patrick Lang, one of the contributors to the Iraq Study Report, as well as Larry Johnson — not to mention over 30 flag officers.

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