Persistence and Luck Pay Off in Iraq

Posted by John Matel
June 27, 2008
Marine and Iraqi Boy Shaking Hands

About the Author: John Matel serves as Team Leader of the Al Asad Embedded Provincial Reconstruction Team in Iraq.

You cannot achieve success if you do not stick around long enough to achieve it. Difficult and unexpected circumstances in Iraq provided many excuses to give up. Leading experts and pundits told it straight-out that the United States was defeated. They were wrong, but they could have been right if we had acted on their advice. In other words, a lack of resolve on our part would have made their prophecies self-fulfilling. In the event, the United States stayed for the turn around.

Risk can be controlled but never eliminated and pure uncertainty lurks beyond all the risks we can calculate. Even the most exquisite plans must run the gauntlet of random chance that can devastate a perfect plan or vindicate a dreadful one, which is why we have to analyze the process and not judge strictly by results.

Early in the conflict, many things turned out worse than we reasonably anticipated. Now things have changed. Our enemies turned out to be poorly organized. Often incompetently led and ideologically myopic, they made stupid mistakes that turned local populations against them. Fighting an insurgent enemy can be like playing whack-a-mole. It is a frustrating game, but it is easier if the moles are not very clever. I don't want to take this too far. Many of our opponents are committed, deadly and dangerous and even in small numbers a ruthless adversary can inflict severe suffering, especially if their goal is to attack civilian populations. But these very tactics erode their support.

The big piece of good luck is the flip side of some very bad luck for the rest of the world - soaring oil prices. Iraq recovered its previous ability to produce oil almost at exactly the time world oil prices spiked. During Saddam's time, Iraq earned oil revenues of around $20 billion a year. Experts anticipated revenues at this time of around $35 billion. Last time I heard, they were looking at $80 billion and the number keeps on growing. Oil money lubricates, and more and more often Iraqi funds can pay for the needed infrastructure upgrades and improvements in Iraq.

Comments

Comments

JOE
|
Tennessee, USA
June 27, 2008

Joe in Tennesse writes:

1. A well planned strategy does not require luck, but it sure helps. The nomadic nature of the peoples of Iraq is endemic of what was faced throughout Afghanistan in the 80s. The Russians methodology of Force and Persistence without building infrastructure for the people is the only differential. In Iraq, there is a more stable citizenship in urban areas; but, to bring a Nationalistic ideology to the external areas and divisions should be the primary psychological directive or the civil unrest will neutralize any and all of the stability developed. We cannot control this element of the people, but we do need to bring a Nationalistic ideology to them somehow, just being present is not enough.

2. Given your figures, they should be able to reimburse the US for its impute and at the least return the absconded billions taken instead of black marketing oil to Dubai. Where is all the excess money going?

3. Since the US did give them their freedom, why did Russia, get 40% of all offshore drilling rights? Could they not at least fill our National Reserves at a nominal cost, if any, and have the National Reserves put into the US system to lower prices here in the US until our own investors stop running up the prices? The fair market value of crude is 95 dollars; speculation has brought it to what? It is not the actual free market demand and pumping more oil has only given the fraud more profits. Why do we only present half truths?

4. Mistakes? It appears the only one was to not go into IRAN long ago.

5. Tell me why any US citizen should lose his life, home and liberties over these people? If they wanted to be here, they would be beyond eco terrorism: NOTE: I may not believe this to be true, but, what is the proposed expectation of staying there?? and Trust me, I understand, but does America and the rest of the world?

Joe
|
Pennsylvania, USA
June 30, 2008

Joe in Pennsylvania writes:

John -- so you think we weren't defeated in Iraq. But do you think what we've now accomplished in Iraq is a victory? If not, what comes next?

John M.
|
Iraq
June 30, 2008

DipNote Blogger John Matel writes:

Pennsylvania Joe

I prefer to think of it as success achieved by our Iraqi friends and us against chaos and disorder. Please recall that I don't speak for all of Iraq or in any official capacity here. IMO our success will help us prevent the great catastrophe that would have followed failure. In addition, planting the seeds of a reasonably democratic and prosperous country in this region where that sort of thing is not very common may change the whole Middle Eastern paradigm.

Smarter people than I can debate the causes and motivations for the war in the first place. I am not going to contribute to that historical analysis here. I am only looking at where we go from here. I am proud the effort in which I had a very small part is giving us options for the future.

Tennessee Joe

We are getting the Iraqis to pay for a lot more. My initial instruction to my team was to always make sure the Iraqi side contributed to every project. We were never in the rebuilding business by ourselves. Now Iraqi money is beginning to flow. A good example was a recent visit to Rutbah. We were working with local authorities and our CA colleagues were prepared to spend CERP money to rebuild a youth center. Instead the Iraqis are paying for it themselves, with us consulting. Our ePRT will do some minor, low cost projects. In this we are acting more as a catalyst than a contributor. That is good.

Zharkov
|
United States
June 30, 2008

Zharkov in U.S.A. writes:

There was no "plan" for Iraq.

What comes next is Iran.

John
|
Greece
July 2, 2008

John in Greece writes:

@ Zharkov in U.S.A. -- Maybe Zharkov.

Who knows?

I am sure that nobody of us in this blog would like one more military mission.

That's why we debate.

We talk.

We are civilized.

We love life!

We attempt to make things better.

But, do the others act the same way?

Sometimes you have to say "wherever the need is…"

Maybe Syria or N. Korea too.

If they keep on remaining on their nuclear "nightmares," we have to secure our dreams.

Don't we?

I would friendly suggest you not to be so sure about a probable military action in Iran. Don't spread the panic. Do not "write" scenarios you are not sure about their end.

Some years ago, everybody thought like U.S.A. would "invade" Libya.

Everybody were sure!

Never happened!

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
July 1, 2008

Eric in New Mexico writes:

@ DipNote Blogger John Matel -- John, you mentioned that a lack of skilled labor noted by your PRT and the need for vocational training in a previous post of your's, if I got that correct.

Would sending you a few instructional video's help?...DVD format?

John M.
|
Iraq
July 1, 2008

DipNote Blogger John Matel writes:

@ Zharkov in U.S.A. -- What I know about is Western Iraq. Here was have been working with good and flexible plans that have been working. It is a remarkable accomplishment.

You should be very proud of your U.S. Marines here. They have shown themselves to be both superb warriors and excellent diplomats. Our ePRT was also part of a diplomatic surge. Together with our Iraqi friends, who showed great courage in standing up to the insurgents, we have made this place a lot more secure and put it on the road to peace & prosperity.

I know my sentiments are a bit out of style in our cynical times, but this is what I see here.

Zharkov
|
United States
July 2, 2008

Zharkov in U.S.A. writes:

@ John in Greece -- President Reagan did order aerial bombing on Khadaffi's tent. We did not invade Libya and we did not have to. He got our message and reversed his position, and he turned out to be a gentleman despite the tragic circumstances of that outcome. Khadaffi is today a far better head of state than before.

John in Utopia, our marines are doing an amazing job considering it is not the mission of the armed forces to police foreign nationals in their own country, as Secretary Rice had once written in regard to the Clinton Administration.

Military men are trained to kill the enemy and destroy their defenses. This is what they do best. Civilian police are trained to "protect and serve", not "search and destroy". How can a soldier do "shock and awe" while "protecting and serving"? If we order soldiers to do both at the same time, soldiers are bound to become confused, and some clearly have been confused. The various prosecutions of our marines for mistakes in battle are shameful and wrong, but it is nice that they have stopped breaking windows and kicking down doors and end the Iraqi resentment over that. Whichever general decided to end that practice deserves another star for common sense.

Attempting to fit marines into a diplomatic role is bound to get some of them killed but if the Administration wants to use the grunts as underpaid, untrained foreign service officers, that is fine as long as the marines are o.k. with that, because it is much better than the alternative if it is working.

The question remains, when is "progress" enough? When does it end? When do we allow Iraqis their freedom from military occupation? How will an attack on Iran change the picture on the ground in Iraq? If Iran invades Iraq, what will we do in response? Will we have to invade and occupy Iran?

Ronald
|
New York, USA
July 2, 2008

Ronald in New York writes:

Cease and Desist ...you are so out of luck!

BTW: Stay out of Iran

John M.
|
Iraq
July 2, 2008

DipNote Blogger John Matel writes:

@ Zharkov in U.S.A. -- Re: Iran invading Iraq, I don't think so. They tried that a while back w/o great joy. But the situation re: Iran is beyond my personal experience.

I don't think you really understand the Marines and their/our role here. I advise you to read the COIN manual and the other links I included in the original post and expand your conception a little bit.

The USMC was employing the "new paradigm" in Al Anbar before it became part of a new strategy. Marine commanders were well familiar with the theory and practice of counter insurgency, but as importantly the Marines in Al Anbar constituted a learning organization. As experience about what worked and what didn't passed through the organization, Marines adapted and improved their responses. The Marines have a long history with counter insurgency and working with indigenous forces going back at least to Presley O'Bannon on the shores of Tripoli, where they earned the Mameluke sword Marine officers still carry. And they have been a learning organization all that time.

We and the people of Anbar share common goals. We want to leave as soon as we can but we want to leave an Anbar that is peaceful and prosperous.

We have made astonishing progress already, even in the almost ten months I have been here. People who were here in 2006 just cannot believe the change. I don't know when progress is enough. I would say when it seems independently sustainable.

@ Ronald in New York -- I am sure you think you are saying something clever, but I am not sure what that is supposed to be.

John
|
Greece
July 2, 2008

John in Greece writes:

You write: "If Iran invades Iraq, what will we do in response? Will we have to invade and occupy Iran?"

Personally, I do not like wars. I think the majority of us do not. However, if I catch a burglar in my house, he will suffer. And don't give me back the usual "argument" that Iran and Iraq is far away from America, because I will remind you the "river flow" theory.

I hope that Iranians will take the message soon enough, as your favorite Khadaffi did in the recent past.

Otherwise, my personal answer is: YES! (military missions ...not invasion as you call it)

That's what exactly I tried to told you Z. Never America invaded Libya, although all the usual, anti-American propaganda used to say that the U.S of A. would do so.

Nevertheless, U.S.A. is not a "Hitler regime" like many "circles" like to say in order to gain power and money.

President Reagan's order, his administration and especially ex-President Bush were sophisticated as well as charismatic patriots. They did a fine job and Khadaffi took the message back then with only a couple of rockets and plenty of diplomacy.

G.W. Bush and his Administration are also intelligent and pure people believing in Freedom, but unfortunately, today's Sheikhs speak a very different language, full of "explosive wor(l)ds".

This is the real Utopia! The Utopia of the Sheikhs.

Zharkov
|
United States
July 3, 2008

Zharkov in U.S.A. writes:

@ DipNote Blogger John Matel -- John Matel in Utopia:

We know how difficult it is to place soldiers into civilian policing and we know doing that is asking for another Mei Lai, Haditha, or other massacre no matter what any government manual says.

Soldiers are either in kill mode or hearts-and-minds mode but they get themselves dead if they try to do both at the same time. When they fail to pull the trigger on a bad guy, their enlistment is over.

Do you really want to know why so many of our guys come back with mental problems, John? Maybe it's because they once believed as you do - the citizen-soldier-diplomat stuff.

Zharkov
|
United States
July 3, 2008

Zharkov in U.S.A. writes:

@ DipNote Blogger John Matel --John in Utopia, you are right, I do not understand how marines can put their rifles aside only to be blown up by the natives during pro-bono diplomacy.

My conception is that massacres like Mei Lai, Haditha, and others, are caused by trying to serve two doctrines at the same time.

Unless COIN explains why half our marines return home with mental problems, I would attribute it to "mission confusion."

Ronald
|
New York, USA
July 3, 2008

Ronald in New York writes:

More Clever:

Abu Ghraib

Falluja

Haditha

GITMO

Blackwater

MISSION COMPROMIZED

Zharkov
|
United States
July 3, 2008

Zharkov in U.S.A. writes:

@ DipNote Blogger John Matel -- John of Utopia, while I re-read the latest version of COIN, FM24-3, you need to read.

http://www.carlisle.army.mil/usawc/parameters/1992/dunlap.htm

In relevant summary:

"...creative Guard and Reserve defenders contrived numerous civic-action and humanitarian assignments and sold them as "training." Left unexplained was how such training was supposed to fit with military strategies that contemplated short, violent, come-as-you-are expeditionary wars. Nice-to-have Guard and Reserve support-oriented programs prevailed at the expense of critical active-duty combat capabilities.

Perhaps even more damaging than the diversion of resources was the assault on the very ethos of military service. Rather than bearing in mind the Supreme Court's admonition to focus on warfighting, the military was told to alter its purpose.

Former Secretary of State James Baker typified the trendy new tone in remarks about the military's airlift of food and medicine to the former Soviet republics in early 1992. He said the airlift would "vividly show the peoples of the former Soviet Union that those that once prepared for war with them now have the courage and the conviction to use their militaries to say, `We will wage a new peace.'

In truth militaries ought to "prepare for war" and leave the "peace waging" to those agencies of government whose mission is just that. Nevertheless, such pronouncements -- seconded by military leaders -- became the fashionable philosophy. The result? People in the military no longer considered themselves warriors. Instead, they perceived themselves as policemen, relief workers, educators, builders, health care providers, politicians - everything but warfighters. When these philanthropists met the Iranian 10th Armored Corps near Daharan during the Second Gulf War, they were brutally slaughtered by a military which had not forgotten what militaries were supposed to do or what war is really all about.

Military analyst Harry Summers warned back in '91 that when militaries lose sight of their purpose, catastrophe results. Citing a study of pre-World War II Canadian military policy as it related to the subsequent battlefield disasters, he observed that:

"...instead of using the peacetime interregnum to hone their military skills, senior Canadian military officers sought out civilian missions to justify their existence. When war came they were woefully unprepared. Instead of protecting their soldiers' lives they led them to their deaths. In today's post-Cold War peacetime environment, this trap again looms large... Some today within the U.S. military are also searching for relevance, with draft doctrinal manuals giving touchy-feely prewar and postwar civil operations equal weight with warfighting. This is an insidious mistake."

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
July 3, 2008

Eric in New Mexico writes:

Ah Zahrkov, it is again a pleasure to burst your bubble...

See...who are the Guard and reserve? Well they're citizen soldiers...all volunteer, from all walks of life. They are carpenters, farmers, welders, electricians, doctors....they all have professional lives as well as personal lives outside their military service.

I don't suppose you understood what I meant some post long ago when I said "We are a nation of nation builders, on many levels."

Well, maybe you can grasp this basic fact now.

It is only logical that what they brought with them by way of experience to the military be utilized.

John
|
Greece
July 4, 2008

John in Greece writes:

John @ Zharkov in U.S.A.

Relax Z and quit reading too much Orwell. Especially if you can't stand reading things in a comparatively way. What now? Shall we change "1984" to 2012? What is next? In 2010 you will suggest to transform 2012 into what? 2023?

We all know this anti-American tactic (too) you are referring to: A probable junta in the White House? etc.

Sure! Nice scenario. Keep on dreaming your chaotic utopia. (I'm sure you have the relevant Hollywood movie at home and watch it bi-weekly? I mean the one with the conspiracy attempt in the White House.) However, have you watched the END?

In a few months, U.S.A., will have a brand new President and Administration that -- no matter if this will be the Democrats or the Republicans -- will secure America, Democracy and the rest of the globe for another term.

Once again!

So, let's discuss your "chaos" after at least 4 years.

Best Regards,
John - of the "animal farm"

Zharkov
|
United States
July 4, 2008

Zharkov in U.S.A. writes:

Eric mistakes the national guard's mission, which has always been (before the Bush Administration) to defend the states from invasion and insurrection, not build nations on foreign soil. Each state governor is the commander-in-chief of his state's national guard units until war is declared and the guard is federalized. There is a major constitutional problem with the president federalizing state guard units in the absence of a declaration of war.

Federalized guard units fought in many wars but not to rebuild the damage they did. In the Vietnam War, many guard units were placed on Special Reserve Force (SRF) and sent to Southeast Asia but not to rebuild villages, but rather to burn them down. Combat engineers are very good at blowing bridges, but are not so good at building mud huts for the natives. Once they start with rebuilding, they are not in a good position to do war fighting. A rifle is a killing weapon but makes a lousy shovel.

Zharkov
|
United States
July 4, 2008

Zharkov in U.S.A. writes:

John of Utopia's writings are carefully crafted perception warfare operations in public media that do not care that Iraq's democracy is an illusion created by military authority - a psyops operation.

Your version of reality is that a village here or there is peaceful when before it was not, so that is "winning".

Real democracies do not require foreign military occupation to retain power. Sham democracies require military power, not citizen consent, to govern. Real democracies have frequent elections; sham democracies have only one or two.

How long will Iraq's government continue without another election?

Where are the recurring elections with new political candidates?

The existing Iraq government does very little. It exists because "perception management" requires it to exist.

Iraq's government is like a Hollywood film set for perception management; when one looks behind the facade, there is nothing there - no sovereignty and no substance - except oil. It has become obvious that without oil, Iraq would be as important to us as Rwanda, Sudan, or Zimbabwe.

Iraq's politicians now see it in their interests that the force of revolution be crushed before Iraqi insurgents threaten their power and privilege. In this, they have become effective open allies of the US military and reject national liberation for their own personal interests. It requires the creating of a basic illusion to end deep nationalist alienation.

As General Petraeus notes in his COIN manual, "The Spanish resistance drained the resources of the French Empire. It was the beginning of the end for Napoleon." But even Napoleon had no clue at the time. Napoleon perceived himself a winner in every respect.

The basic prediction is that we will fail to bring peace in the same way that other phases have failed simply because armed resistance is a normal 'response' to foreign occupation and all the tinkering and illusion-making in the world does not change that reality.

Here is more reality:

$1.1 Trillion Dollars missing from DoD
http://www.whereisthemoney.org/1.1trillion.htm

$2.3 Trillion Dollars missing from DoD, Rumsfeld cites "cooked books"; "we cannot track $2.3 trillion in transactions"
http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2002/01/29/eveningnews/main325985.shtml

$59 Billion Dollars missing from HUD
http://www.whereisthemoney.org/59billion.htm

$3.3 Trillion Dollars missing from US Treasury
http://www.rense.com/general70/trill.htm

Numerous Iraqi military and law-enforcement officials brought to the U.S. as part of special intelligence and training programs have run away and are seeking asylum in this country or disappeared altogether, The Washington Times has reported.

Intelligence officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity, say nearly a dozen Iraqis fled military training facilities in the U.S., including a brigadier general who went to Canada with his family earlier this year.

I doubt you could convince even Napoleon that Iraq is a success today but real people have to work for those tax dollars you guys are blowing in Iraq on behalf of Iran's government. Iran should give our marines medals for their wonderful investment. No doubt the North Vietnamese enjoy the new military facilities we built for them when we liberated their country.

How many times, in how many wars, can you guys recycle the same b.s. to the public before you think we can figure it out?

John
|
District Of Columbia, USA
July 4, 2008

DipNote Blogger John Matel writes:

@ Zharkov in U.S.A. -- How can I explain it to you in a way that you could understand based on your experience? Perhaps you should read a little about history post-WWII. Your concept of the military is very narrow and flawed.

I work with Marines every day. You statement is silly, unless you mistake a love of country, patriotism and a desire to succeed as aberrant.

We are succeeding in Iraq. I regret if that goes against your world view or you conception of how things should work. The combined efforts of our military, civilians, coalition and Iraqi allies will give you a success, whether you want it or not.

Reality has a way of being ... real.

Eric
|
New Mexico, USA
July 5, 2008

Eric in New Mexico writes:

@ Zharkov in U.S.A. -- You mistake it's potential, Zharkov.

"Eric mistakes the national guard's mission, which has always been (before the Bush Administration) to defend the states from invasion and insurrection, not build nations on foreign soil."

Must I remind you we go through an "insurrection" every four years or so in America without even contemplating it as such?

Insurrection is by right, under our constitution, in the hands of the people....by law. Our military assures the removal of elected Presidents after 2 terms in office, and if need be would be at the heart of any "insurrection" to protect and defend the Constitution of a free people.

Now maybe that's an odd compliment to the checks and balances of government, but it holds true as well that the "mission statement" is defined by the C in C.

If he says "help the Iraqis stand up for their rights", they will do that. Including helping them build the capacity to realize life, liberty and the persuit of happiness for themselves.

President Bush sometimes refers to himself as a "decider."

Some have used more colorful language to describe the process, but I think of the Office of the Presidency as the seat of the Great Instigator.

In instigation of a just response to global terrorist threat that bases its success on the will and common sense of free people, and those struggling to be free....there is no clearer truth than results they can reach out and touch.

You talk of Paul Bremer's role as like something out of a Cowyboy diplomacy pipe dream, a-la.. "Judge Roy Bean, the only law West of the Euphrates"....

You want to know what's real dude? Cowboy Diplomacy is mostly about mending fences and leading the herd to greener pastures. Sometimes that's after the outlaws have come to justice.

There's no "mission creep" involved.

.

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