February 27, 2008


Lessons on the Long War: Understanding the stakes and strategy in Iraq. (Pete Hegseth, 2/27/08, National Review)

While traveling to Baghdad, I had plenty of downtime to re-read large portions of House to House, Staff Sergeant David Bellavia’s memoir of urban combat in Fallujah, and the U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual authored by General David Petraeus and (new Vets for Freedom board member) Lieutenant Colonel John Nagl. The two books highlight fundamental aspects of the Iraq war today — and are must-reads for anyone who wants to understand the enemy we face and the strategy we’re currently employing against them, with great success.

Congressional Medal of Honor nominee David Bellavia’s first-person account of deadly hand-to-hand combat in Iraq paints a realistic and detailed picture of the enemy he faced in Fallujah — what he called “an insurgent global all-star team” that included “Chechen snipers, Filipino machine gunners, Pakistani mortar men, and Saudi suicide bombers.” The insurgents were not ordinary Iraqis fighting for their freedom against an invading power — but international Islamic militants supported by al-Qaeda. “They seek not only to destroy us here in Iraq, but to destroy American power and influence everywhere. They revile our culture and want it swept clear, replaced with Sharia law.” If only certain U.S. Senators truly understood the global nature of our vicious enemy in Iraq.

The second book outlines the military doctrine behind our counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq — and is a testament to military adaptation and leadership. In the military theater, Petraeus’s manual calls for “securing and controlling the local populace,” but also for “providing essential services” and “supporting government reforms and reconstruction projects” — all of which requires “a high ratio of security forces to the protected population” (i.e., enough troops). Meanwhile, on the home front, the manual warns that “protracted counterinsurgency operations are hard to sustain. The effort requires a firm political will and substantial patience by the government, its people, and the countries providing support.” In light of today’s Senate fights, these words are painfully prescient.

The extent to which our military and government can internalize and implement the lessons these books provide will determine whether or not we succeed in Iraq and in the broader war on terror.

The motley nature of the insurgency and its inability to appeal to the broader population is actually the most important lesson.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 27, 2008 8:32 PM

The point about the "insurgent global all-star team" is central.

The fight is not about "Iraq"; it is about the world class of civilizations, or, more accurately, between world civilization and the spiritual jailhouse.

Posted by: Lou Gots at February 28, 2008 5:06 AM

Fight is too grandiose. It's a tussle.

Posted by: oj at February 28, 2008 7:18 AM

The point about the "all-star team" is important.
They came to Iraq, fought in Fallujah - and died there. The more that die in Iraq facing civilization's all-star team means that there are fewer to trouble their lands.

Posted by: Mikey [TypeKey Profile Page] at February 28, 2008 8:20 AM