July 28, 2006

Ralph Peters - So close yet so far away

Bush doesn't have a neutron bomb. He does have FAEs however, which are still quite good. A better option than nuclear weapons, other than high altitude EMP bursts.

I think what Sala and Ralph here are doing is like a mirror dance. They both want the same thing, meaning in the end, victory one way or another. But Ralph sees the road to victory as going through the swamp, Salamander believes the road to victory is through the bridge. Ralph says that the bridge is trapped and will collapse, sealing our doom. Salamander says that the swamp will bog us down and make us retreat because our logistics will be cut.

In the mirror, to an outside observer, Salamander looks like Raph, but the details are different.

I'm not a graduate of West Point, I have no formal military training one way or the other. So I have to rely on out of the box knowledge and wisdom. Meaning, I have to go digging in the histories for pieces of information, that I then use to decide whether a military course of action is correct or not. There is no tried and true formula for me, other than real life examples.

I know some of the military philosophy and principles. Tactics, strategy, logistics. Instead of having to try out experimental and theoretical plans, and asking myself if I am doing the right thing, I can look at historical examples to see what they did, and attempt to mimic the successes and avoid the disasters.

So that's a quick and dirt solution to the timeless question "What if you are wrong" and "How do you know that you are doing the right thing".

When I think about retreating to Kurdistan and the Shia regions, I know what Ralph is thinking, his military principle. He believes that if he fights a longer war by retreating rather than occupying and holding territory, he can break the morale of the enemy completely. Unfortunately, it is too late for that. You could have done guerrila operations with local support in 2003, but not now. Not when we have already shed blood to build up local trust as an occupation force. You can't just scrap everything and unleash a Lebanon style civil war now, you'd lose more than you'd gain. You'd also lose something else, and that is control.

The human psychology, for me, goes like this. If you had delayed the war in 2003, and pushed forces across to Basrah and air dropped the 101st into Kurdistan, in order to train up the local forces and assault towns using an Afghanistan style insurgency, then that would have caused the residents of Baghdad to blame Saddam and his goons for failure. However, we are now the occupying power, we are the power that protects their government, and everyone in Iraq knows this. If we retreat, it will be a loss of face, it will be a loss of respect and trust, because we have already occupied Iraq. You could have retreated had you not occupied Baghdad, but we did, due to military decisions made by those conversant in Cold War armor pushes. Bush didn't have the knowledge or confidence to overrule the military, so he didn't do it. So here we are.

Remember Sherman's letter to Atlanta?

Link

You cannot qualify war in harsher terms than I will. War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it; and those who brought war into our country deserve all the curses and maledictions a people can pour out. I know I had no hand in making this war, and I know I will make more sacrifices to-day than any of you to secure peace. But you cannot have peace and a division of our country. If the United States submits to a division now, it will not stop, but will go on until we reap the fate of Mexico, which is eternal war. The United States does and must assert its authority, wherever it once had power; for, if it relaxes one bit to pressure, it is gone, and I believe that such is the national feeling. This feeling assumes various shapes, but always comes back to that of Union. Once admit the Union, once more acknowledge the authority of the national Government, and, instead of devoting your houses and streets and roads to the dread uses of war, I and this army become at once your protectors and supporters, shielding you from danger, let it come from what quarter it may.

To tolerate a division now, to tolerate a Lebanon civil war and strife is... not going to give you ultimate victory. Ralph doesn't think like this, because Ralph believes things can be accomplished if you had 300,000 troops. Even with 300,000 troops, that's not how you win an insurgency. If Ralph thinks he is going to fight conventional militias like Al Sadr, crush them, and parade through the streets, he has to consider the fact that the first thing that would happen is that Al Sadr would take control of towns and execute everyone who was loyal and helpful to Americans, his enemy.

What's the use in retaking a town by crushing AL Sadr's force when he already killed everyone who we were supposed to protect? Ralph seems to be a guy that believes in the bigger hammer approach. I favor more subtlety, like a submariner. Stealth, subversion, things of that nature.

Does it take a military genius to win with an overwhelming amount of force? No, it takes a military genius to take 50,000 troops and make it as if it is 300,000. How? By outsmarting the enemy, rather than overpowering him. Sun Tzu did say that the acme of battle jutsu was to defeat the enemy without fighting him at all, by breaking his moral.

Roach over at Blackfive also recommended a similar course of action. Sit back and let the Shia do the brutal purging, while we sit with clean hands.

It is a weird form of mirror dance. Ostensibly Roach and Ralph's goals are an American victory, but their thought processes are unlike my own. And perhaps unlike yours as well. The confusion comes from all close it is, so close that you want to believe you agree, yet the differences in the details are too important to overlook.

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