Every war is a series of mistakes-bloody, expensive mistakes. Ultimately winning a war demands perseverance and creative adaptation. War winners understand this real world paradox. It exists because the enemy always “has a vote”; the enemy also has a motive will and the ability to adapt. Winning generals minimize and correct their own mistakes while leveraging the opportunities created by the enemy’s.
The Great 21st Century War for Modernity is no different – and that really is the war America and its allies are fighting. So treat “gotcha” stories focusing on mistakes (like this one from the AP) as the historically uninformed sensationalism they are.
Based on what I’ve read in the wire services and in pre-released portions of the speech, President Bush’s speech will announce a “change in strategy.”
That’s a confusion of terminology, but one shared by both the President and his critics. Bush will be outlining new operations and tactical approaches designed to achieve the original strategic goals. Iraq is and has always been about choice. A free, economically and politically stable Iraq will create a democratic choice in the politically dysfunctional Muslim Middle East, a region trapped in the terrible yin-yang of tyrant and terrorist – which is no choice for those who value life and liberty.
The “new tactics and operations” President Bush outlined in his speech really aren’t new, either. They represent a revitalized approach.
The media focus has been on the “troop surge” component – rapidly adding five (or more) US combat brigades to the coalition forces deployed in Iraq.
Reinforcements and withdrawals have always been an option; they are what Multinational Force-Iraq commander General George Casey has called operational “adjustments” based on “current requirements and conditions.”
This is one reason why I believe a “sudden” a troop surge alone is of minimal value, despite the case the President will make that immediate conditions in Baghdad require more military presence.
According to a statement by White House Press Secretary Tony Snow (made on a bloggers conference call this afternoon), the Bush Administration has reached the same conclusion. Snow discussed several economic and political policies that I hope to hear Bush discuss in the speech.
1- A “hydro carbon law” that will disperse oil and gas revenue among Iraqis.
2- A reformed “de-Baathification” program that will allow former members of the Baath Party, on an individual basis, to integrate into the new, democratic Iraq. (Snow mentioned the case of a woman who was a teacher but she could not work because she had joined the Baath Party. She had to join in order to teach. She isn’t a terrorist, she isn’t a rejectionist. Her situation is similar to that of a “mitlaufer” in post-Nazi Germany.)
3- A “regional approach” that includes neighboring nations friendly to Iraq.
4 – Significant changes in the way provincial-level reconstruction and development teams are created, organized, and deployed. Snow indicated the US will pursue a “more concerted effort to bring together US elements and civilian elements to build institutions for civil society.” That’s jargon but it’s important. Snow said that the new Iraqi “Provincial Support Teams” will embed development officers in military units.
Point 1 looks like a version of the “oil trust” idea. Let’s hope that is the case. The oil trust idea has been discussed since 2003, but to create one required a fully independent Iraqi government – independent and legal by the definition of international law. That did not exist until mid-2006.
Point 4 is particularly significant. The Bush Administration is telling the State Department, Commerce, Treasury, Agriculture, etc to make much more substantial contributions to “unified action”. That’s the DOD buzzword for using and coordinating all of our elements of power.
Brett McGurk (Director for Iraq, National Security Council) also participated in the conference call and he said that this particular initiative had been discussed and analyzed for months. McGurk acknowledged it was a critical policy initiative.
In a Creators Syndicate column last October I wrote about the absolute need to “fix” unified action.
Here’s a key quote from that column:
“Unified Action means coordinating and synchronizing every “tool of power” America possesses to achieve a political end — like winning a global war for national survival against terrorists who hijack economically and politically fragile nations and provinces.
People understand the role of soldiers and cops in a war, but in 21st century wars where economic and political development are determinative, an arborist at the Department of Agriculture and a Commerce Department trade consultant can be powerful contributors to “Unified Action.”
It appears significant changes were in the works.
One last thought: An American president is always addressing multiple audiences. His first audience is the American people and his second audience the people of Iraq.
Snow also emphasized that the President’s speech will “address” Iran and Syria.
This is where a “troop surge” helps send a “larger message.” Iran’s mullahs and Syria’s Assad dictatorship aren’t fools. They realize five more brigades in Iraq gives the US an enhanced offensive ground force, one capable of challenging their regimes.
Now let’s listen to the speech.