Friday, January 26, 2007

Keep Your Eye on Petraeus

Lt. Gen. David H. Petraeus, the new U.S. commander in Iraq, is being sent off with blessings from members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, according to the January 25 Washington Post article, Congress's Iraqi Quagmire, along with a vote of no confidence in his mission.

But should we be confident of General Petraeus? When he was first appointed to the impossible task of “managing” our war in Iraq, I read nothing but praise about him. And he looks like a nice guy (photo).

Then I picked up the February issue of Harper’s Magazine and started wading my way through a long but interesting article titled “Dead End – Counterinsurgency warfare as military malpractice” by Edward N. Luttwak, senior fellow at the Center for Strategic & International Studies.

The first half of the article focused on the new “counterinsurgency” field manual, “FM3-24 DRAFT, which is being proposed by Gen. Petraeus for official use. Luttwak then proceeds to pick the manual apart, section by section, and in at least two instances, states that the propositions in the sections are “questionable.” Later in the article, Luttwak concludes, “The essentially political advantage of the insurgents in commanding at least the silence of the local population cannot be overcome by technical means no matter how advanced. Nor can better operational methods and tactics advocated in FM3-24 DRAFT be of much help.”

I then read General Says Strategy Can Work Over Time in the January 24 New York Times: “General Petraeus acknowledged that the guidelines in the military’s counterinsurgency manual [referring to FM3-24DRAFT] implied that 120,000 troops would be needed to secure Baghdad. But he reasoned that the roughly 32,000 American troops that would be deployed in the capital under the plan would be enough, because the total number of American and Iraqi security personnel would be about 85,000, while the use of civilian contractors to guard government buildings would reduce troop requirements.” This sounds downright dodgy to me.

So, what’s a general in charge of the war in Iraq do to? According to Luttwak, nothing we would want him to do or would authorize him to do. We would have to out-terrorize the terrorists by deliberately inflicting horrendous damage on the civilian population. This sounds like a terrible bind, but I’m wondering if General Petraeus should be speaking up about this.

Luttwak also briefly mentions setting up a military government, complete with administrative services for the civilians as a partial solution. He then he dismisses this because of the "...crippling ambivalence of the occupiers who refuse to govern..."

Why are our Congressional representatives not asking hard questions of General Petraeus? In her January 24 op-ed column in the New York Times, Maureen Doud tartly stated “At a critical hearing yesterday, senators happily blew a chance to grill Lt. Gen. David Petraeus, W.’s choice to try to rescue Iraq, on whether those 21,500 additional troops will be cavalry to the rescue or lambs to the slaughter.”

So what do Maureen and I know? Perhaps not much, but I’m going to keep my eye on Petraeus.

1 comment:

Gail Jonas said...

I changed a setting so anyone should be able to post a comment without having to subscribe to Blogspot. Gail