July 28, 2006

Public Executions - Why Do It?

Roach has a list of tactics that I believe have a correct basis in human psychology and behavior. Of course I would think so, I favor most of them. There were several other good comments in the title link, don't miss out.

Comment below written by: Roach

Bruce, thanks for your remarks. I too am trying my best to make sense of complicated events with limited information. It is undoubtedly difficult and the administration deserves some benefit of the doubt. That said, they specifically overruled the military's original proposals to use 300,000 plus troops, in part, to show off Rumsfeld's "transformation" concept.

I don't have time to go point by point, but I wrote in December 2005, the following practical suggestions:

Recognition that security is the first priority. The real key to hearts and minds are not new textbooks, elections, and the occasional PR event, but delivering the goods that governments everywhere must deliver. Insufficient troops have been the cause of this festering problem, and a short-term plan should include the difficult decision to increase US force levels to 200,000 or more.
A political plan that empowers a single, powerful executive. Only such an empowered authority can cut the Gordian Knot of regional, sectarian, and tribal resistance to an effective central government.

A commitment to suppressing sources of extremism and disorder from sheiks, imams, and the press. "Freedom" does not and should not be misunderstood to include the freedom to support anarchy and terrorist resistance.

A deemphasis on the present strategy large-scale sweeps--Operation Matador, Operation Dawn--and more integration of US forces at the small unit level with Iraqi forces.

A plan for constructing and manning robust barrier on all of the relevant border crossing points.

A plan for massive investments in language training for US forces. Language barriers continue to hinder integration with Iraqi forces and US gathering of intelligence in Iraq and for the war on terror.

A plan for collective punishment of sources of support for the resistance: towns, mosques, etc. This should include curfews, removal of electricity, denial of local self-government, forced dispersal of populations, etc.

Swift, public executions of captured insurgents. There is presently little downside for these terrorists, who are often motivated by threats and bribes. A swift, certain death penalty would give them a major incentive not to.

Amnesty and rewards for insurgents who switch sides. The classic carrot and stick program, which worked very well in the latter part of the Vietnam War under the rubric of the Chieu Hoi program.

A plan for instituting identity card requirements nationwide under penalty of summary arrest. As it is, insurgents can hide because they can move about relatively unchecked and unaccounted for. Any identity card system should be used to gather evidence--fingerprints and photographs--to arrest those connected to IED and other attacks.

A plan for protecting and rewarding people and areas loyal to the government, e.g., "fortified hamlets," and colocation of Iraqi forces, their families, and US troops.

Increased US reliance on helicopters and decreased reliance on the roads. Helicopter assault has proven to be the main way to leverage the mobility and capabilities of first world militaries entangled with insurgencies, e.g., Vietnam, Algeria.

I'd revise these today to say that we should consider (a) cutting losses because of our failure to implement some of these earlier and the lack of political possibility to do so now and (b) because the Shia seem more organized and capable of engaging the Sunnis with the kind of brutality we should disassociate ourselves from. A passing of the baton and isolation of US troops in a few bases to act against Iran and Syria without much involvement in the counter-insurgency would accomplish that goal.

Posted by: Roach | Jul 27, 2006 1:42:44 PM


Comment below written by: Bram

I believe that one of John Podhoretz's points was that we have been winning battles in Iraq without making it obvious to the enemy that they lost.

The analogy would be an old UFC match in which Royce Gracie or Ken Shamrock achieves a very fast submission victory and advances in the tournament. Nobody is really hurt or even tired. Psychologically the loser may think he could have won and would be willing to go again immediately with slightly different tactics. I saw Kimo get up and try to fight Shamrock again seconds after being submitted in one fight. He lost the fight but was not beat down.

It is a great way to win a UFC tournament but not a war. After WWII, the Germans and Japanese new they were beat. The military and civilian casualties, property destruction and economic hardships affected every family. They were beat down in a terrible way and accepted occupation with little resistance (other than some acts by the Hitler youth). In Iraq, we won so fast and so cleanly that many of the Islamic fascists don’t feel that they’ve been beat.

Why not fight the Americans and Brits? If you aren’t killed in the firefight, there will probably be no consequences. They probably won’t hunt you down or destroy your property or harm your family, so why not?

I’m not suggesting that we start dropping Moab’s on population centers, but it is a factor that should be taken into consideration and examined by our leadership. How do we conduct a war in a way that gives us a psychological victory?

Posted by: Bram | Jul 27, 2006 12:19:58 PM

Segues nicely into Bookworm's comment section here.

Another good resource is Sherman's letter in reply to Atlanta. Sherman expressed the rationality behind total war quite well there. You've heard people quote him as "War is Hell" but what is behind that is a lot more intellectual and philosophical than it appears.

update
Lest it be thought that I agreed with certain portions of Roach's argument that I in fact disagree, here's a clarification. I think while Roach's end result goals are similar to me, in that his tactics are designed to facilitate the same results as tactics I approve of, the reason why Roach comes up with these tactics differ from my own reasoning. For example, I don't favor letting innocent people be hung out to dry, Iraqi or American, just because someone was too lazy to do the work of protecting them.

Roach would willingly and perhaps eagerly sacrifice the Iraqis if it was convenient for him to do so. Meaning, he'd stand back and let the Shia slaughter the Sunnis, and call it a day's work well down.

I'd revise these today to say that we should consider (a) cutting losses because of our failure to implement some of these earlier and the lack of political possibility to do so now and (b) because the Shia seem more organized and capable of engaging the Sunnis with the kind of brutality we should disassociate ourselves from. A passing of the baton and isolation of US troops in a few bases to act against Iran and Syria without much involvement in the counter-insurgency would accomplish that goal.

His writing here shows a rather significant amount of callousness and lack of compassion. While that is sometimes necessary in a war, it should not be taken too far. Another reason why Roach's reasoning differs from my own classical liberal positions, is that Roach wants to collectively punish towns. It is clear to people in the know that you will never equal the intimidation ability of terroists who kill, murder, slaughter, assassinate, and blow up anyone and anything that gets in their path. Cutting off the electricity as a punishment is no comparison to 30 days of torture that kidnapped hostages endure. Since it is no comparison, you should help the Iraqis rather than punish them. You help them by pocking up the terroists and hacking off their limbs, to display in a public square, of course.

So if you look carefully at Roach's reasoning, not just the end result of his positions (which are, granted, similar if not exactly the same as mine), you will see that Roach's reasoning is different from the classical liberal philosophy to free the oppressed, to help the downtrodden, and to secure the rights of humanity.

I'm sure protecting Iraqis is a concern of his, if only as a way to get more popular support and intel. But I do not believe it is very high on his personal priorities. This is a gulf that I cannot transverse. I want to say I agree, but I also have the wisdom to understand that you should not assume that someone is on the same page as you, just because they support the same policies as you.

After all Pat Buchanan is an isolationist, which combines him with Democrat isolationists, but he comes at it from a very different direction. Different polarities, equal charge.

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