Thursday, November 09, 2006

No Matter How You Cut It, Rumsfeld Hewed to Counter-insurgency Doctrine

Fire of Liberty

I know he's out the door but folks should think twice about dumping all the blame of our rough patch in Iraq on Donald Rumsfeld's stubbornness and refusal to listen to a generals on increasing troop strength in Iraq when in reality he was following military doctrine with regards to fighting a classic counter-insurgency as well as trying to avoid the problems that plagued us with regards to Vietnam. If you want to really understand what's behind Secretary Rumsfeld's thinking with regards to troop strength and our current fight in Iraq, I recommend you take a look at this post in The Corner by historian Victor Davis Hanson:
So we are down to his supposed responsibility for the later effort to stop the 3-year plus insurgency, whose denouement is not yet known. Rumsfeld's supposed error that drew such ire was troop levels, i.e., that he did not wish to repeat a huge presence in the manner of Vietnam, but sought to skip the 1964-1971 era morass, and go directly to the 1972-5 Vietnamization strategy of training troops, providing aid, and using air power.

I think he was right, and that most troops in Iraq today would agree. I was just talking to a Marine Lt. back from Haditha and Hit; his chief worry was not too few Americans, but rather Iraqi Security Forces insidiously expecting Americans to do their own security patrolling. Since sending in tens of thousands to do a Grozny-like smash-up is both politically impossible and antithetical to American policy, I don't see the advantage of more troops at all, especially when we will soon near 400,000 Iraqis in arms, which, together with coalition forces of ca. 150,000, would in theory provide 555,000—or more than the "peacetime" army of Saddam's. As a rule in history, it is not just the size, but the nature, rules of engagement, and mission, of armies that matter.

For the future, neither precipitous withdrawal nor a big build-up are the right solutions, the former will leave chaos, the latter will only ensure perpetual Iraqi dependency. As it is, there are too many support troops over in Iraq in compounds, who are not out with Iraqis themselves; more troops will only ensure an even bigger footprint and more USA-like enclaves. Abezaid, Casey, Petraeus, McMaster, etc. understand counter-insurgency and the need for a long-term commitment that marries political autonomy for the Iraqis with American aid, commandos, and air support. Rumsfeld supported them all.
One can assume from VDH's post that instead of Rumsfeld being a ideologue who was doing things his way and the hell with others(Like Robert McNamara) the Defense chief was indeed an individual who studied his history and was well versed in what it takes and how right he was in referring to our war against Islamic fundamentalism as a "long hard slog."

If you want to further your understanding on the thinking behind our counter-insurgency fight in Iraq and elsewhere, then I recommend you take a look at the Marine's Small Wars Manual, Max Boot's The Savage Wars of Peace, C.E. Callwell's Small Wars: Their Principles and Practice, John A. Nagl's Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife: Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam, or Lewis Sorley's A Better War.


shliknik said...

I don't think anyone who says 'more troops' are thinking anything like the situation in Vietnam. Basically then, we had a slow-to-react, army who was prepared to fight another 'army'...not a small, quick 'insurgent' force.

BUT the most important time for the US in Iraq was just AFTER the fall of the Iraqi army. Rumsfeld was correct that we didn't need a large force of soldiers to beat Saddam and his army, but where the higher # of troops would have helped was maintaining the peace, and keep the positive feeling and support of the population.

We went in with just enough troops to beat the Iraqis - hell...we could've had MUCH LESS...but we lacked the # of troops to make the quick, positive steps in making Iraq a safe place. It seems we went with the plan just to defeat the Iraqi army, but didn't have much of a plan for afterwards.

After months...then years of limited progress ('s never as bad as the news make it out to be), the people's attitude (both HERE and in IRAQ start to change).

Progress should (and could) have happend much quicker if we could have gone in with more troops, peace keeping forces, engineers, etc. The positive changes have been much slower than anticipated by both the American people and Iraqis, and I think that's the main reason the Repubs lost the elections.

Again...Rumsfeld did a good job of changing the army from a slow, immobile force to a much smaller and quicker-to-respond army. The planning for the force AFTER the defeat of Saddam wasn't there.

jstarley05 said...

Iraq was an issue but I'm not so sure that was the finishing nail for the GOP. The main reason they lost is because they turned their nose up to the conservative principles of Reagan/Gingrich. You can't continue to push Run-away spending(Embracing Big Gov't), go lax on ethics, failing to confront illegal immigration, not pushing through permanent tax cuts, failing to confirm some 30 vacancies in the appeals and district judges(Dems will fight like hell if Bush pushes conservative judges now), and pushing new and expensive entitlement programs your more than likely going to piss your base off and they stay home. If Republicans return to their conservative roots and embrace the small government ideology championed by Reagan then you'll see the GOP finding their way out of the wilderness come 08.