On plan

Dave Price writes in Battle of the Surges:

The early success of Petraeus’ surge seems to have less to do with troop numbers and more with the de-FOBbing of our forces and concomitant changes in rules of engagement. Establishing small permanent garrisons throughout Baghdad, rather than keeping troops in large Forward Operating Bases, appears to be reversing the trend of ever-increasing violence and finally allowing commerce to resume and reconstruction to begin.

What we’re seeing is consistent with what a lot of folks have been wanting all along and with what I said on January 10th when the proposed “surge” was discussed before the President’s speech that evening:

I’m not 100% certain that the supposed move to deploy an additional 21,500 US troops to Iraq is the best move, but it will work if

A) They are there to play offense
B) The Iraqi Army also plays a lot of offense

If we’re sending more troops to play peacekeeper, it’s a bad move that will merely put more of our men and women in the cross-hairs.

However, if we’re sending these troops to take the fight to the insurgents and anti-government militias, 21,000 could do the trick. 17,000 are headed to the Baghdad area, which will be good as long as the mission and rules of engagement are designed to smash, kill, and destroy. We’ll need the Iraqi Army to step it up a notch, but I think they’ve reached the point where they can do just that.

and I noted again on February 16th:

The “surge” of 21,500 additional combat troops is the least important part of what is basically a three-pronged strategy:

  1. The additional boots on the ground will make it a bit easier to conduct missions as quickly as possible when opportunities arise.
  2. More importantly, the missions themselves appear to be much more offensive in nature, “war fighting” rather than “peace keeping”, and we seem to be intent on maintaining a presence in areas once they’ve been cleared rather than pulling back to base.
  3. Most importantly of all, the Iraqi government finally seems almost serious about dealing with the issues they’re facing. The protection of Sadr was lifted, and additional Iraqi forces have been committed to the problem areas.

Basically, nothing we do will matter one whit in the long run if the Iraqis aren’t aboard or refuse to get tough with the militia and Iran-meddling issues. And no number of additional troops will accomplish anything of lasting value unless the rules of engagement, tactics, and overall strategy are adjusted so that they support our mission.

A week after the last piece, I noted that Michael Hirsch of Newsweek seemed to suddenly have an eye-opening insight:

The Petraeus plan will have U.S. forces deployed in Iraq for years to come.

The sheer ignorance of so many commentators and journalists continues to boggle my mind. They’ll rail on about how we made the mistake of trying to do it with too few troops and too quickly, but when more troops are committed and a long-term plan is put into motion they switch gears and rail on about how it’s taking too long and too many troops.

For the record, Murdoc remains convinced that, unless we allow the Democratic Congress to legislate a military defeat, we will have a sizable military force in Iraq for many years to come. Over the next nine to twelve months we’ll be very heavily engaged in fighting the insurgency, terrorists, and militias. During the year or two following that, we will slowly begin pulling out of the day-to-day operations and slowly begin drawing down our troop levels as Iraqi forces continue to step it up. (This means we will be doing in 2009 what we tried to do in 2006.)

However, I truly believe that we will maintain a force of Special Forces and quick reaction troops to make sure that Iraq stays on the course to security and peace. And, separate from these forces will be a significant force of regular Army, at least a brigade and probably several brigades, as a regional reaction force. In addition, the equipment of several additional brigades will be pre-positioned to facilitate quick action by US troops based elsewhere.

It’s going to take a generation for true peace and security to settle on Iraq, and US troops will be on call the entire time. It may take even longer before everyone feels certain that things are solid, and there’s no telling what else is going to happen in the Middle East during that time.