Monday, September 10, 2007

The debate rages

Apparently my last post sparked quite a bit of excitement amongst my bloggy faithful. As a gesture to my readers, I've decided to take this time to calm the waters and write about something far less controversial and comment-invoking: Iraq.

Yesterday was a super-busy day at work, so I haven't had time to read anything, but I know that Petraeus gave his testimony to Congress today. And I know that he did not advocate the kind of withdrawal that Democrats in Congress have been clamoring for.

And to this, let's have a toast: TO GENERAL PEATREAUESUESS!!!!

(don't misinterpret me: that wasn't sarcastic, he just has a difficult name to spell)

We've made many mistakes along the way (like going to war under false pretenses in the first place), but I also do not think this is the time to pull out. The withdrawal question can only be answered by questioning our own metric for success, which has (rightly) changed over the course of time. And I refuse to put something so important into the hands of the politicians who got us into this own mess.

I mean, who are we left to trust?

Personally, I trust guys like Nagl (haven't seen the 08/23 Daily Show interview yet, but watched him on BookTV last night), who understand that military superiority does not necessarily translate to a successful nation-building exercise. It takes the military building trust, and doing the little things to ensure the security of the population. The topic of Iraq is quite complex, and like Vietnam, cannot be judged based on body counts.

I never thought I'd link to a George Will article on my blog, but a few sentences in this article makes me think that he gets it:

They think America needs, in the words of one officer, "an expeditionary capacity other than military." Officers here especially admire the introduction to the University of Chicago's edition of the Counterinsurgency Field Manual. Written by Sarah Sewall of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, it says:

We see in Iraq "military doctrine attempting to fill a civilian vacuum." In counterinsurgency, "nonmilitary capacity is the exit strategy," which is problematic when "more people play in Army bands than serve in the U.S. foreign service." Counterinsurgency "relies upon nonkinetic activities like providing electricity, jobs, and a functioning judicial system. . . . But U.S. civilian capacity has proved wholly inadequate in Afghanistan and Iraq." The military is "in a quandary about the limits of its role" as it is forced "to assume the roles of mayor, trash collector and public works employer."

It's true - the civilian vacuum is the hole we need to plug...without that, there's no point in continuing. And I think we're getting it right, but I have no concept of how we measure this. As I said before, I haven't watched much of the testimony, or read into this much recently. It's on the agenda, so expect more from me.

In the meantime, I'm going to go out and buy a hard copy of the counterinsurgency field manual (they claimed over 2,000,000 download so far on BookTV last night!). I've read it a bit, but there's only so long I can stare at a PDF doc online...

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