Robbing Peter to pay interest to Paul

The Clauswitzian dictum that war is politics by another mean is no more prominent than in the field of counterinsurgency. Here, the counter-insurgent force should win almost every military fight at or above the platoon level. Here, the counter-insurgent force should be seeing massively imbalanced in their favor kill ratios. Here the counter-insurgent force should enjoy massive advantages of firepower, operational mobility and damage resistance. And yet, the counter-insurgent force despite conventional military superiority often loses as the insurgent force is able to win the higher level political fight.

The Washington Post reports that there are US Marine officers who are seeing this problem repeat itself in Anbar Province.

there are no functioning Iraqi government institutions in Anbar, leaving a vacuum that has been filled by the insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq, which has become the province’s most significant political force……

One Army officer summarized it as arguing that in Anbar province, “We haven’t been defeated militarily but we have been defeated politically — and that’s where wars are won and lost.”…..

Counter-insurgency work is long, boring, manpower intensive work that can only produce positive results over a long time period in which the counter-insurgent force is able to build a credible promise of security and superior alternatives than the insurgent force. The insurgent force has a much easier job of only needing to be occassionally successful as a chaos inducing agent while the counterinsurgent force needs to win almost every inflection point of order over chaos.

Besides the initial disdain that the US military had towards counterinsurgency and its marked preference for kinectic force on force engagements where the US usually dominates, one of the other failures of the Anbar counterinsurgency effort has been the lack of troops. The Marines routinely have had to play a shell game with combat units, moving a battalion from Quaim to build a concentration near Hit, uncovering Haditha to reinforce Fallujah and then scrambling back once their rear has been threatened. The general offensive into Fallujah during November 2004 required a theatre wide shell game as British troops backfilled for Marines near Baghdad, and the Army stripped Mosul of its garrison. This trend has continued.

it is a cry for help from an area where fighting remains intense, yet which recently has been neglected by top commanders and Bush administration officials as they focus on bringing a sense of security to Baghdad. An Army unit of Stryker light armored vehicles that had been slated to replace another unit in Anbar was sent to reinforce operations in Baghdad, leaving commanders in the west scrambling to move around other troops to fill the gap.

The US military is losing in Iraq. It is abandoning the chance of an effective counterinsurgency in Al-Anbar province in order to slow down Baghdad’s descent into anarchy. It is not reducing the violence in the capital, but it is conceding the hinterlands of the Sunni Aran insurgency to the insurgency, even though the US has reinforced Ramadi in the past three months.

The US is engaged in a slow collapsing bag of a mission. Baghdad and Al-Anbar are two swirling vortexes that mutually reinforce each other’s destructiveness. Since the United States has neither the physical ability or the political will to supply in the future the physical capability of putting thirty brigades into Iraq for five to ten years, then getting out and minimizing the future costs is the best policy option.

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