March 31, 2016

"Mr. Obama needs to be straightforward about deploying more troops. 'It has not been transparent for the public'..."

"...Representative Mac Thornberry, the Texas Republican who leads the House Armed Services Committee, said in an interview, referring to the evolution of the military campaign. 'My view is that the president jumps through hoops because of his views of this politically.' Mr. Obama has not made a clear argument that giving the Pentagon freer rein can lead to greater success against ISIS. It seems inevitable that the next president will be dealing with this fight. Mr. Obama would do his successor a favor by being frank with the American people about the struggle and choices ahead."

The last 2 paragraphs of a NYT editorial titled "America Needs Frank Talk on ISIS."

58 comments:

mikee said...

Where has the NY Times been for the past 8 years, suddenly demanding "frank talk" from our current President? Don't they know who they are writing about?

Sebastian said...

"Mr. Obama would do his successor a favor by being frank with the American people about the struggle and choices ahead" Now that's funny. He would, he could, he won't. Struggle, what struggle? Bin Laden is dead, don't you know, and al Qaeda on the run, and "ISIL" the JV.

amielalune said...


I'm sorry, what makes him think that Mr. Obama would want to "do his successor a favor" no matter who it is?

Oh, I keep forgetting that some people still attribute normal human motives and feelings to him. Not realizing he is a cold-blooded snake.

Mike Sylwester said...

It's two paragraphs in The New York Times, but it's one paragraph in Althouse.

Big Mike said...

Mr. Obama would do his successor a favor ...

Yeah, like that will ever happen.

Mike Sylwester said...

From the NYT editorial:

The White House last week provided a synopsis of the next steps in the campaign against the Islamic State in a seven-page report to Congress.

Here's the link to the seven-page report to Congress:

https://armedservices.house.gov/sites/republicans.armedservices.house.gov/files/wysiwyg_uploaded/Section%201222%20Report.pdf

Nonapod said...

What Obama is likely to do with regards to ISIS at this point is probably politically irrelevant and possibly functionally irrelevant too. I don't see Obama dealing with the ISIS problem in any meaningful way before the end of his presidency. Honestly he's just not interested in it. He never has been. And he couldn't care less about whatever legacy he leaves the next occupant of the oval office with regards to this issue.

The only thing that could change his response would be a very large scale incident of some sort (one involving the deaths of thousands of Americans) if for no other reason than the intensity of the public outcry.

Rick said...

Mr. Obama would do his successor a favor by being frank with the American people about the struggle and choices ahead."

The first point should be that if Obama had not withdrawn the troops he now wants to re-deploy to Iraq ISIS wouldn't exist, and what does this suggest about the ability of anti-engagement people in the US to understand the impacts of their policies.

gerry said...

The only thing that could change his response would be a very large scale incident of some sort (one involving the deaths of thousands of Americans) if for no other reason than the intensity of the public outcry.

Naw, he believes America can "absorb" an attack or two.

Bob Boyd said...

Is it wrong to drop bombs out of self-interest or solely because it would give you enjoyment?

Of course!

What if the target was a contemporary art museum?

Hmmm....

Tank said...

Mr. Obama needs to be straightforward ...

Ha ha ha.

The Onion?

Bobby said...

Rick,

"The first point should be that if Obama had not withdrawn the troops he now wants to re-deploy to Iraq ISIS wouldn't exist, and what does this suggest about the ability of anti-engagement people in the US to understand the impacts of their policies."

Well, we'll have to disagree that "ISIS wouldn't exist" but for the American residual force-- if nothing else, I'm guessing it would still have emerged in Syria where the American presence was negligible (and where ISIS actually did originate). I'll agree that Daesh likely would not have made significant gains into Iraq and would not have become nearly as powerful as it did, but that's not the same thing as saying it "wouldn't exist."

In any case, making the failure to maintain the residual force the first part of the solution to the contemporary ISIS crisis is being "stuck on stupid," and hardly better than then-candidate Obama's determination to present his solution to the 2008 Iraq problem set by focusing on Bush's fateful decision to invade Iraq in 2003. Unless there's time travel involved, decisions in the past are immutable and focusing only on "I wouldn't have made that mistake in the first place" is hardly constructive (and typically demonstrates an inability to grasp the current problem set and/or articulate a worthy solution). Those who actually read Trump's NYT foreign policy interview, probably noticed that's how he addressed the Iran nuclear deal.

khesanh0802 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
khesanh0802 said...

From the NYT no less: the administration has been "vague and at times disingenuous". Then a quote from a general (relieve him!) "who portray(s) the artillery battery that came under attack as analogous to air power." (At last something I know about first hand.) For reasons you will see below Arty is not air power. It provides the same function of "general support" but it is more accurate, more timely and is available to the infantry in all weathers. It also must be based within the range of the guns that make up the battery. For a 155mm howitzer that's about 11,000 meters max.

If this is the modern equivalent of a 155mm, towed, battery (Which it should be to give the appropriate operational range) and there are six guns, a fire direction center and command, the minimum manpower to fire the battery is somewhere in the neighborhood of 80 to 100 "men" depending on operational requirements (24 hr firing?). Then add in trucks, drivers and maintenance for towing each piece, for ammo, fuel, water and general support, plus command vehicles - say another 20 -30 "men". If it is a self-propelled unit it still needs vehicles plus I would guess several mechanics to keep the guns moving and an armorer or two. Let us not forget the Forward Observers who are out with the infantry directing fire.

The battery has to eat so they have to have a mess or someone has to bring them MREs (Cs in my day). There has to be an ammo dump somewhere and that ammo moves either by truck or chopper (a 155 round weighs 95 lbs. -individually - not including fuses. They are shipped on pallets. There is separate powder charge that comes in a metal canister, palletized by the dozen). There has to be security for the battery which would require at least a company size force. If there are no roads or the roads are insecure, "beans and bullets" have to be choppered in. I have no idea what the manning of a sufficient chopper lift capacity would be, but I would guess not less than a couple of hundred "men" plus their machines, chow and security. If there are "beans and bullets" then there has to be a logistical (supply) unit operating somewhere close to the battery. It will probably be with the chopper unit supplying its need as well as the battery's. Last but not least, the operation needs a command structure to maintain overall control of the operation- another 25 -30 at the least.

So, at a bare minimum, we are talking about 500 -750 personnel and more than likely about 1000 when you follow the logistical tail all the way to the end. That's a serious commitment of people and equipment. It is very different from flying a plane off a carrier. Not only is the arty base exposed to ground fire, but it is exposed to counter-battery fire, as we have seen. "Vague and disingenuous" barely describes the administration's position.

Rick said...

Bobby said...
In any case, making the failure to maintain the residual force the first part of the solution...is being "stuck on stupid,


Understanding how prior decisions led to the current circumstances sets the parameters of a resolution. Recognizing that pipe dream solutions, whether driven by naivete or a desire to act opposite of the people you demonize, have no place in politics is important. Such agreement weakens the moral authority such people will claim which is how the withdrawal was justified in the first place. Limiting this pernicious influence will lead to a better resolution. So shove your insults up yourself.

traditionalguy said...

Surprize, surprize. Mullah Obama was elected to destroy the USA's military threat to Islamic Jihad any which way he can. Iran will become a peaceful friend once we disarm our military and especially our Anti-Missale defenses like Iran has requested he do as a gesture of Dhimmitude owed by all despised Christian dogs and Son-of God believers to Obama's god, allah.

Nyamujal said...

"The first point should be that if Obama had not withdrawn the troops he now wants to re-deploy to Iraq ISIS wouldn't exist, and what does this suggest about the ability of anti-engagement people in the US to understand the impacts of their policies."

That's not right. ISIS rose out of the ashes of AQ in Mesopotamia after ex-Baathist intelligence officers like Haji Bakr traveled to Syria as part of a tiny advance party in late 2012. His plan was that IS would capture as much territory as possible in Syria. Then, using Syria as a beachhead, it would invade Iraq. That's exactly what happened. The conditions that made large parts of Iraq ripe for the taking was Noori Al-Maliki's failed presidency and marginalization of Iraq's sizable Sunni minority. A minority that in many places welcomed ISIS while corrupt Iraqi army officers fled.
One can make the argument that a larger troop presence in Iraq could've prevented the takeover of some parts of Iraqi territory (BTW the Iraqi's wanted US troops out of there), but since a ground invasion of Syria was off the table, the rise of ISIS in Syria couldn't have been prevented.

Bobby said...

khesanh0802,

Analogous doesn't mean the same -- it means "comparable in certain respects, typically in a way that makes clearer the nature of the things compared" (synonyms: comparable, parallel, similar, like akin). Contemporary US military commanders employ air strikes in a way that is comparable to how we once used field artillery.

You're spot-on, however, in noting that the cult of airstrikes refuses to acknowledge that airpower is not nearly as timely nor as all-weather as artillery, lacks artillery's volume and rate of fire so it can't "mass" fires as effectively, and is much more expensive to boot (these days, accuracy is honestly more a function of the observer than the delivery so it's probably a wash).

With respect to the rest of your post, artillery has increasingly been used in sub-battery configurations three- and two-gun sections, and even single guns distributed to various FOBs was not uncommon in Afghanistan (in that configuration, artillery loses many of the advantages over airpower that we previously identified above). Not being on the ground right now, it's difficult to really say with any authority how things actually look.

With respect to the logistics, keep in mind that over the last twenty years- really beginning with the Clinton Administration in Bosnia, but escalating dramatically under Bush in Iraq and Afghanistan- lots of the combat service support (and even combat support) roles and functions have increasingly been taken over by private companies. So the current "cap" on troops probably undercounts (significantly) the number of personnel who are actually essential to the OIR mission.

Nyamujal said...

@khesanh0802, On the marine artillery fire base presence 40 miles outside Mosul:
"Although standard artillery will not reach that far, the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System’s M31 GPS guided rockets can. In other words, with HiMARS the Marines could rain GPS guided rockets with 220lb warheads onto targets leading along the main route up to Mosul, all the way into the city itself, on demand and under any weather conditions.
"
Also, it seems like just dropping bombs on targets isn't working. Since the start of the anti-ISIS campaign, the US has dropped over 40,000 weapons on ISIS targets. That comes up to about $1.5 billion. There are roughly about 32,000 ISIS fighters in Iraq and Syria so that works up to about $47,000 per fighter, according to FoxtrotAlpha. Clearly that isn't working. Plus given the amount of money it costs per hour to fly B-1 and F-16 sorties, this is a very expensive route we're taking.
Russia can't really afford some of their own advanced weapons, so they dropped a lot of dumb munitions on large parts of Syria leading to an untold number of civilian casualties. The EU actually accused Russia of using Refugees as a weapon because their indiscriminate bombing was driving civilians to flee in large numbers.
The solution to this problem has to be political. There have been some moves made in that direction, but more needs to be done.

Rick said...

Nyamujal said...The conditions that made large parts of Iraq ripe for the taking was Noori Al-Maliki's failed presidency and marginalization of Iraq's sizable Sunni minority

These conditions existed for years without ISIS, until our troops left. The army collapsed because the troops largely believed they were on their own, that without Americans involved to force the appropriate military reaction other army groups would sit by while they were being overrun.

since a ground invasion of Syria was off the table, the rise of ISIS in Syria couldn't have been prevented.

ISIS limited to Syria is an anti-Assad extremist militant group, not a group that can credibly claim to be a caliphate even to the under-educated.

tim in vermont said...

The press could report what they know even if it put Obama in a bad light. Naaah!

exhelodrvr1 said...

It was pretty clear 8 years ago that there was an extremely high probability that this would happen.

Bobby said...

Rick,

"Understanding how prior decisions led to the current circumstances sets the parameters of a resolution. Recognizing that pipe dream solutions, whether driven by naivete or a desire to act opposite of the people you demonize, have no place in politics is important. Such agreement weakens the moral authority such people will claim which is how the withdrawal was justified in the first place. Limiting this pernicious influence will lead to a better resolution. So shove your insults up yourself."

That's analogous to the argument that the Democrats used to make about Bush from 2005-2008: if only he would just admit that the invasion was a mistake, then- and only then- could a solution to the Iraq crisis be reached. As far as I know, Bush never called the invasion of Iraq a mistake while in the House, and that never stopped us from developing a strategy that would ultimately prove successful, if fleeting (in 2013, I believe he did state that "I may have made a mistake" and called it his biggest regret).

Should Obama acknowledge that not leaving behind the residual force was a mistake? Yeah, okay (and, like Bush or Clinton with Rwanda, I suspect he will down the road when he's not as emotionally invested as he is while in the Oval Office). But acknowledging it is absolutely not essential to crafting a successful strategy going forward. As General Honore put it, "that's being stuck on stupid."

virgil xenophon said...

khesanh0802 injects some reality into the discussion. As someone who actually flew USAF F-4s in support of Khesanh (Operation Niagara) in 1968 post Tet out of Danang and I'm in general agreement with him. However I would disagree some what. Arty is not always "more timely" in that getting the needed clearances for a fire msn back thru company, battalion, regiment/brigade and Div TOCs is not only often time consuming; the request is often refused due to higher priorities elsewhere. However in Vietnam direct contact with the airborne FAC overhead by the troops in contact usually resulted in bombs on tgt before the arty crews could even get cranked up. It was simply more convenient for the Army to by-pass the Army chain of command and call the Air Force (which for political reasons was loath to refuse a request from the Army. The Army, however could refuse requests from their own far more easily) Finally, I observed that CAS (both Marine, and USAF and Navy as well) was generally FAR MORE accurate and timely than arty, so don't know where you're coming from, You're experience, examples? (Tho you're point about CAS wx limitations is well made.)

(And please don't misunderstand, I am NOT trying to imply in any way that airpower is a "replacement for arty" Only that they complement each other and that I have a few quibbles based on my experience as an F-4 type on my 1st tour and as a FAC on my 2nd...YMMV..)

Nyamujal said...

@Rick,
The US troop withdrawal is only half the story. After the Anbar awakening in which a lot of Sunni tribes fought against AQIM, we had a real chance at securing a stable government in Iraq. But after we gave Maliki our blessing things went downhill. Maliki began a systematic campaign to destroy the Iraqi state and replace it with his private office and his political party. He sacked professional generals and replaced them with those personally loyal to him. A lot of those generals were incredibly inept and fled when ISIS attacked. His Shia militias also killed a lot of Sunnis which led to them feeling bitter towards the Iraqi government.
This article shows how ISIS used Syria as a launch pad to take over parts of Iraq:
http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/islamic-state-files-show-structure-of-islamist-terror-group-a-1029274.html
Patrick Cockburn, Charles Lister, and Fawaz Gerges have written a lot of great articles and books on the rise of ISIS. You should check them out if you're interested.

virgil xenophon said...

Bobby@10:51/

Your point about "massed fire" (volume & rate-of-fire) is well taken as is your point about costs. Same for Nyamujal. In Vietnam it was once calc that it cost $million/head to kill an NVA or VC. We quipped we should just send everyone a check for a million dollars, make each an instant capitalist and then we could all vacation at a real "Hanoi Hilton." :)

n.n said...

A frank talk on Obama's terrorists. A frank talk on his rainbow paradigm. A frank talk on mass exodus (e.g. "refugee crises") from second and third-world nations. A frank talk on reactive and planned parenthood. For a species that is speculated to be several million years old, we are surprisingly immature with a liberal outlook.

Nyamujal said...

@Bobby
Another argument that needs to be put to rest is that we're ineffective against ISIS because Obama hasn't adopted some of Trump's or Cruz's rhetoric to use the right "language" to describe them.

Bobby said...

Nyamujal,

Agree, but the reasoning on the residual force in Iraq is that: (1) the US military advisors would have been in a position to observe, report and reduce al-Maliki's efforts to replace competent Iraqi Army commanders with his Dawa splinter cronies; and (2) its presence would have provided the leverage to the US diplomatic mission to keep Maliki honest with respect to being more inclusive and not pursuing an ethnosectarian political agenda. Both of those come with significant doubts-- ultimately, James Jeffrey and Robert Beecroft are not Ryan Crocker, and I personally doubt they'd have been up to the task. But it would have likely (somewhat) mitigated the incompetence of the Iraqi government and its security apparatchiks, and thereby (somewhat) blunted Daesh incursion into Iraq. We'll never know.

The Drill SGT said...

khesanh0802 said...
For a 155mm howitzer that's about 11,000 meters max.


showing your age :)

USMC loves their towed guns. I'd hope they are towed M198/52's which have a normal range of 22km and a assisted by rocket (RAP) of 40km.

Having a HIMAR's MLRS truck, gives you access to ATACMS with a range of 300km

holdfast said...

@khesanh0802

Good comment, except as to the range of modern 155mm Arty..

Assuming these are Marine M777 Howitzers:

Standard M107 Round: 24 km (14.9 mi)

ERFB: 30km (18.6 mi) base bleed

Excalibur: 40km (25 mi)

That allows one fire base to dominate a lot of ground.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M777_howitzer

Rick said...

Nyamujal said...
@Rick,
The US troop withdrawal is only half the story.


It's the half we actually had control over.

Lance said...

Pres. Obama's just doing what Presidents Kennedy and Johnson did. It worked for them, right?

holdfast said...

@Drill

Showing YOUR age - ;)


The M777 is replacing the M198, and I would hope that a unit send to Iraq would have the newest stuff. the M777 is an evolution, not a revolution, but it's still better than the M198 in almost every way.

M777A2 M198
Weight 9,800 lb (4,400 kg) 16,000 lb (7,300 kg)
Emplacement time 2:10 minutes 6:35 minutes
Displacement time 2:23 minutes 10:40 minutes
Number per C-130 Load 2 1

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M777_howitzer

The Drill SGT said...

YEAH, YEAH, there is some increment of improvement, but having seen the Marines take their M60's to Gulf I, then use their age to get free M1A1's from the Army by way of Congress. I never put it past them to take old shit and politic for more funds.

And I am old, though not as old as Khesanh. I was there in 71, not 68

Michael Fitzgerald said...

traditionalguy said...
"Surprize, surprize. Mullah Obama"... Obama's god, allah."

His sympathies lie only with Islam, but he is not a Muslim. Give up champagne and foie gras? Nah... Get on your knees and pray six times a day? Dude, SportsCenter's on!

3/31/16, 10:32 AM

khesanh0802 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Drill SGT said...

PS: your stats really say the big difference is in mobility and set-up. neither of which matter from a FOB. The ranges are very comparable. A slight edge to M777

khesanh0802 said...

Thanks, guys, for correcting my obsolete range estimate and providing some additional info. Great stuff. I am happy that the newer weapons have greater range and flexibility. We were outgunned several times and it was aggravating. I have been curious how GPS has impacted fire direction, but have never had the chance to learn. It was obvious in Desert Storm that it had a huge impact on the ways the guns were deployed. The more support the arty can give the ground pounders the better!

Bobby, I do know what analogous means but I also know mush mouth when I hear it. In the USMC close air support has always been "analogous" to artillery, but the general was not talking about USMC air support.

The Drill SGT said...

Khesanh.

The next best thing to A-10 CAS is USMC CAS :)

khesanh0802 said...

@ Virgil Thanks for going into harm's way! Clearances were never such a problem once you got out to the "frontier". Arty was a bit less susceptible to political pressure. Most of my battery's fire missions were in support of engaged or observing infantry. You got clearances a lot quicker in those situations.

@ Drill SGT. The reason the Marines have older gear is because the Navy spends the money first and the USMC gets the hind one. This has always been true (look it up :)). That has never affected our willingness to engage with what ever was handy!

khesanh0802 said...

@ Virgil I am not trying to belittle your efforts, but if you remember the weather in February '68 was foggy and rainy a lot. I know the flyboys took tremendous risks to provide air support of all kinds, but were hampered by weather at times. My personal fire support doctrine is give the infantry everything it asks for - air, arty , naval!

tim in vermont said...

It was pretty clear 8 years ago that there was an extremely high probability that this would happen

Only in the fever dreams of racists and homophobes. Everybody else knew that this couldn't happen.

holdfast said...

True, the range has not changed a lot. I had some infantry friends who were engaged with the enemy in Afghanistan with the M777s doing direct-fire in support of them - it's not often that the gunners can see their targets themselves with binos. Pretty wild times, apparently.

The M777 acquisition seems to have actually been done intelligently, with the initial guns going to the units going into harm's way (Army light infantry/airborne, USMC and allied (Canadian and Aussie).

The Drill SGT said...

holdfast said...
True, the range has not changed a lot. I had some infantry friends who were engaged with the enemy in Afghanistan with the M777s doing direct-fire in support of them - it's not often that the gunners can see their targets themselves with binos. Pretty wild times, apparently.


In our day, 105's had a couple of flechette rounds and 2 heats. (remembering TF Smith :)

khesanh0802 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
khesanh0802 said...

@Bobby/Holdfast In various photos from Desert Storm I could see that 155s were being split out into platoons. That makes sense if you have some kind of GPS fire control. I would think that a lighter piece like the old 105 would be the ideal weapon for close in support in Afghanistan that you talked about. Easy to move, rapid fire. The 155 is potent, but I'll bet it still takes some time to move the weapon if your target is beyond the gun's traverse. On several occasions my battery had fire missions that encompassed a 360 degree arc, I know I drove the gun crews crazy trying to hurry them up as they jacked up, rotated, secured their gun and only then could fire their mission. Ah...war stories!

elcee said...

Bobby:
"As far as I know, Bush never called the invasion of Iraq a mistake while in the House, and that never stopped us from developing a strategy that would ultimately prove successful"

Because it wasn't a mistake. Casus belli for Operation Iraqi Freedom was the Saddam regime's evidential material breach across the board of the Gulf War ceasefire in Saddam's "final opportunity to comply" (UNSCR 1441), including and especially the disarmament (WMD), terrorism, and humanitarian mandates that were the priorities in the ceasefire enforcement from the outset.

On the facts, the decision for OIF was correct on the law and justified on the policy.

Answers to "What were President Bush’s alternatives with Iraq?" & "Why did Bush leave the ‘containment’ (status quo)?";
Answers to "Did Bush allow enough time for the inspections?" & "Did Iraq failing its compliance test justify the regime change?";
Answer to "Was Operation Iraqi Freedom a strategic blunder or a strategic victory?".

Bobby said...

virgil xenophon / khesanh0802,

With respect to the accuracy of artillery fire vs airstrikes, generally-speaking, I believe the most influential variable to be the capability of the observer: both tend to hit precisely what the observer calls in, whether good or bad. That said, however, in my experience, there was one advantage to artillery in that the FDC is able to prosecute targets through a number of different methods (grid, polar mission, shift from known point, etc.), transmit the data to the guns and hit the target. With some (not all) aircraft conducting airstrikes, that flexibility is not always the case, as many of us have learned during rather significant emotional events. But I agree that artillery and airpower should not be viewed as an either-or proposition, at least not under the current technological regime.

elcee,

For the record, I was merely pointing out that Rick's insistence that Obama must first acknowledge his decision not to leave the residual force in 2011 as a mistake in order to be able to develop an effective response going forward is analogous to Democrats who claimed that Bush had to acknowledge the 2003 invasion was a mistake in order to be able to craft a proper strategy in 2005-2008. Neither require such an admission, whether or not one believes that one, both or neither of those decisions were mistakes.

elcee said...

Nyamujal:
"But after we gave Maliki our blessing things went downhill."

PM Maliki practically suited the emergency on the ground. But for the next stage of Iraq's development, he should have been replaced in the 2010 election. That being said, as Bobby points out, "James Jeffrey and Robert Beecroft are not Ryan Crocker". I'll add in the same vein that President Obama has fallen short of President Bush. Maliki adapted, not for the better, to the change of Obama from Bush.

Useful references:
From December 2010, a promising outlook for Iraq that cites to the 2010 election: UN Recognizes 'Major Changes' In Iraq by VP Joe Biden on behalf of the UN Security Council;
But then, How Obama Abandoned Democracy in Iraq, by OIF official and senior advisor Emma Sky;
Ali Khedery, perhaps the longest serving US official from OIF, attributes the regression of Iraq to course-changing decisions by President Obama from the outset of his administration.

Nyamujal:
"BTW the Iraqi's wanted US troops out of there"

That's not unusual, though. The US presence isn't popular in Korea, either. But the principal question with Iraq, as with Korea, isn't about 'want'. It's about 'need'. The Strategic Framework Agreement dictated the long-term US-Iraq relationship was to be determined by conditions. That's a judgement call. President Obama's judgement fell short.

Bobby:
"the reasoning on the residual force in Iraq is that: (1) the US military advisors would have been in a position to observe, report and reduce al-Maliki's efforts to replace competent Iraqi Army commanders with his Dawa splinter cronies; and (2) its presence would have provided the leverage to the US diplomatic mission to keep Maliki honest with respect to being more inclusive and not pursuing an ethnosectarian political agenda."

Right. The concept isn't that retained US forces would have, on their own, saved Iraq, but rather the removal of US forces unraveled the necessary US-Iraq combination. Much like the 30K US troops stationed in South Korea are not expected to stop a north Korean invasion, but the US-ROK combination is.

Your view is consistent with this informative 2014 Columbia University Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies panel discussion, “ISIS in Iraq, Syria, and the US”. The panelists provide a succinct explanation of ISIS and its origin. (There's a link to the Youtube video of the panel, but no transcript, unfortunately.)

According to the Columbia professors, the top differences caused by the US withdrawal were the loss of US intelligence assets and the loss of American leadership and structure from the Iraqi forces. Reminiscent of the evolution of the South Korean-American military relationship in its early stage(s), the Iraqi military with American leadership showed substantial (but not yet institutionalized) progress that was, at the point of US withdrawal, still organically dependent on American leadership. Subsequently, the hard-earned gains that were not yet concrete were lost when the essential American leadership was withdrawn.

Going back to the Korea analogy, as much as we're down on Maliki, he doesn't appear to have been worse than Rhee. Iraq was in a far better state 6 years post-Saddam (2009) than Korea was 6 years post-Japan (1951). President Eisenhower stayed the course with Korea, though. President Obama neglected to stay the course with Iraq.

elcee said...

Bobby:
"Neither require such an admission [of mistake], whether or not one believes that one, both or neither of those decisions were mistakes."

I agree that as a practical matter, the Commander-in-Chief can decide one way but then later take contradictory action. The Constitution provides checks for it, but doesn't bar it. At times, as our war-experienced founding fathers understood, the situation demands it.

However, there's an essential difference between Presidents Bush and Obama's positions. Bush didn't change course.

The COIN "Surge" was a strategic adjustment, not a change to presidential policy. The fundamental principles of 'strong-horse' American leadership of the free world that manifested with the Iraq intervention were heightened with the COIN "Surge", not changed.

In other words, as big as the changes were down the chain of command, Bush didn't change course at his echelon. Rather, he approved an adjustment to get back on course. In that respect, albeit it took place in the post-war rather than the war, the COIN "Surge" was akin to adjustments like the changes we made following the battles of New York, First Manassas, Kasserine Pass, and Chosin Reservoir. (Although the Chosin defeat and Red Chinese entry convinced us to settle for restoring the MDL rather than reuniting Korea.)

At the same time, a Bush admission that the invasion was a mistake would have been a non-sequiter regarding the COIN "Surge" because the major combat operations against the Saddam regime caused by Saddam's material breach were a distinct stage from the peace operations with post-Saddam Iraq, where the COIN "Surge" took place. In other words, difficulties during the post-war don't change that the decision for OIF was correct.

In contrast to the COIN "Surge" adjustment within the same policy, based on the same fundamental American leadership principles, for the same mission - peace operations with post-Saddam Iraq - Obama changed course at his echelon in terms of policy and American leadership principles. Obama disengaged the mission of peace operations with post-Saddam Iraq.

Effectively restoring the mission of peace operations with post-Saddam Iraq calls for Obama to restore the Bush policy and American leadership principles for the Iraq intervention, though the strategy of the mission may change form from the COIN "Surge".

That kind of essential re-alignment wasn't necessary for the COIN "Surge".

That being said, I don't want the Commander-in-Chief to prostrate with mea culpa. But I do think a frank Melian dialogue with the American people regarding policy and American leadership principles for the War on Terror, including and especially setting the record straight on the why of the Iraq intervention, is appropriate. And overdue.

khesanh0802 said...

@ Virgil you were either a very brave man or foolhardy to take on the role of FAC - and in your second tour no less. I'll go with the brave option. Did you get enough exposure out there to cure you forever from wanting to be a grunt?

Semper Fi.

J. Farmer said...

I think this is mission of the mission of the mission creep. Or mission creep creep creep. This problem is going to be solved or not solved by the people who actually live there. Not by people who live 6,000 miles away in a modern neoliberal democracy. Can the typical American or American policymaker even begin to fathom the simmering tribal tensions that characterize that part of the world? This is a place where marrying your cousin is not that out of the ordinary. And we're trying to insist on some kind of system of democracy, constitutionalism, and rule of law. It's absolutely absurd and laughable, if only because it's so cosmically tragic.

Can anyone point to a multiethnic, multi sectarian state that functions well and is not authoritarian in its political orientation? It's insane American hubris to imagine that niggling over troop numbers is going to make any significant difference to this conflict in the long-run. Unless the US is prepared to put American lives and American money at risk in perpetuity to underscore the political unity and security of this part of the world in perpetuity, what exactly is the exit strategy. Even if we get the violence squashed, we can't get Afghanistan to work politically, Iraq is fractured, Syria's a mess, Libya is a failed state. At what point do we face reality and realize that gigantic nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and the latest in high-tech laser-guided munitions aren't of much use in trying to build a stable society.

Just a few days ago regular commenters on this blog were confessing their libertarian affections and sensibilities (many of which I share). What exactly is more un-libertarian than what the US has attempted to achieve with a regime change policy? Wasn't the basic conservative critique of the French Revolution (the ideological birth of modern conservatism) that when you destroy an existing political order, chaos and violence is often not far behind?

Bobby said...

J. Farmer,

"Can anyone point to a multiethnic, multi sectarian state that functions well and is not authoritarian in its political orientation?"

The United States of America comes to mind. Switzerland, too. Also, New Zealand. I could keep going, if you're really interested.

Rusty said...

On several occasions my battery had fire missions that encompassed a 360 degree arc

Hence the moniker Khesanh. OK now I get it. I highly recommend the book by the same name.
My neighbor and friend was the last combat sea plane pilot in the US Navy during Viet Nam.

J. Farmer said...

@Bobby:

"The United States of America comes to mind. Switzerland, too. Also, New Zealand. I could keep going, if you're really interested."

The US was overwhelmingly white Anglo Protestant for most of its history. Significant levels of multiethnicity only really begin in the latter half of the 20th century. And the results of diversity have been, as Bob Purnam's research has suggested, a big negative for the US. How much do you think America will look like when it's less then half-white? If you're curious take a peak at thd political transformation of California.

Switzerland is about 90% European extraction: Germanic, French, Italian, etc. Abour 80% of the country is Christian. Also, the Swiss population is about 8 million

New Zeland, a country of about 4 1/2 million people, was more than 90% European in 1960 and is now a little under 70% today. What do you think the result of that has been?

So yes, by all means, "keep going." Because I found your examples not only unpersuasive but actually supportive of my point.

Bobby said...

J. Farmer,

"European" is not an ethnicity. Germanic, French, Italian, etc. are ethnicities. Perhaps you meant to say multiracial or multicontinental or something, I don't know, I'm not a mind reader. What you said was multiethnic, so that's the answer I provided.

"Sectarian"- in the context of the Shi'a-Sunni sectarian divide in Iraq which you were referencing- they are both Muslims, and so the sectarian relates to sects of that same religion. Christian sects present in the USA, Switzerland and New Zealand include a variety of Protestant denominations, as well as Roman Catholicism. Perhaps you didn't mean "multisectarian," again, I'm not a mind reader.

I'm also not a fortune teller. You asked for countries that are doing well and not politically authoritarian- I provided you three of them. Perhaps, in the future, they will not be doing "well" and they will become politically "authoritarian"- I don't know, but that's purely hypothetical right now. What I do know right now is that the above three countries are multiethnic, multisectarian, doing well and not politically authoritarian.

elcee said...

J. Farmer:
"I think this is mission of the mission of the mission creep."

To be clear, it's not "mission creep". Rather, President Obama deviated off course and it remains to be seen whether he'll get back on mission.

See answers to "Was Operation Iraqi Freedom about WMD or democracy?" & "Was the invasion of Iraq perceived to be a nation-building effort?".

Winning a war includes securing the peace, as UNSCR 678 (1990) mandated, "restore international peace and security in the area". The traditional way of securing the peace to win a war is capturing the flag, ie, regime change. But in the case of the Gulf War and the Saddam regime, we tried to secure the peace with an alternative way, a ceasefire with strict conditions formulated to rehabilitate the offender, which would allow Saddam to stay in power, but reconstructed so he could be trusted with the peace.

Unfortunately, the alternative Gulf War ceasefire peace process didn't work. With the ceasefire breached with the alternative way to secure the peace with Iraq having failed, Operation Iraqi Freedom was a return to the traditional way of securing the peace by capturing the flag.

The regime change should have happened years earlier given that Presidents HW Bush and Clinton evidently recognized early on that Saddam would not comply with Iraq's ceasefire obligations. Instead, Bush's predecessors kicked the can and emptied the playbook of lower (diplomatic, economic, military) enforcement measures while the Saddam problem festered. Meanwhile, the presidents - especially Clinton - set up the law, policy, and precedent for regime change in anticipation of completing the circuit of the Gulf War ceasefire enforcement and returning to the traditional way of securing the peace by capturing the flag.

Ultimately, the regime change was triggered by the Saddam regime's failure to comply in Saddam's "final opportunity to comply with [Iraq's] disarmament obligations" (UNSCR 1441) when UNMOVIC reported "about 100 unresolved disarmament issues" (eg, "With respect to stockpiles of bulk agent stated to have been destroyed, there is evidence to suggest that these was [sic] not destroyed as declared by Iraq") to the UN Security Council on 07MAR03.

That's not "mission creep". That's trying an alternative way to secure the peace to win the war, which unfortunately failed, and methodically working back to the traditional way of securing the peace by capturing the flag. The question now for Obama is not about "mission creep", but rather, will the President do what's needed to get back on course to secure the peace to win the war.