"Evil is powerless if the good are unafraid" - Ronald Reagan

New York

The Dogs of War

In trying to figure out what needs to be done to achieve victory in Iraq and Afganistan, I am often struck by the the fact that U.S. since WWII has fought limited wars. And since WWII, we have not decisively won a conflict. We have either settled for the status quo (Korea), lost (Vietnam), pulled out (Desert Storm), or are involved in an persistent insurgency (Operation Enduring/Iraqi Freedom).

Since WWII, we have only fought militarily in the nation or state at which we are a war with, but we have not battled adjacent nations or states which are supporting our enemy.

In Korea, even though the Chinese were supplying the North Koreans, and later entered the war themselves, we still did not engage China directly outside of Korea. Similarly, in Vietnam, we did not engage China and North Vietnam until Nixon bombed them to the negotiating table. Unfortunately, as the Vietnese came to the negotiating table, Nixon stopped the bombing. In Desert Storm, having almost completely destroyed the enemy, we left. Currently, in Iraq, even though we have definitive evidence of Iranian and Syrian involvement, we likewise are not engaging these nations militarily. A similar situation exists in Pakistan tribal regions.

In all these wars, we engaged the nation-states supporting our enemies with only three of the four instruments of national power (diplomatic, economic, and information), but have failed to back up these instruments of power with military action.

It struck me this morning as I was feeding my small dogs some canned dogfood, that these nation-state actors are much like my dogs, the battlefield is my kitchen, the surrounding countries are the rest of the house.

To keep the battlefield as non-violent as possible when they eat, I separate the bowls in the kitchen to prevent fighting as one dog finishes, but wants more.

After they are done eating, I wipe their faces with a damp cloth to ensure they do not spread remnents of food around my home. Since my kitchen has three escape routes, I typically open the refrigerator door to prevent one escape route and mass along the other two routes.

When they are done eating, they have to come past me to get a face washing. As I focus on one dog, another often attempts to escape through the other unblocked route. I must flex my position and seal this route and wash another face.

Sometimes, a dog will attempt to close the refrigerator door to escape the face washing while I am engaged with another and I must maneuver again to prevent escape.

This routine is repeated daily. Even though I have successfully executed the daily face washing for several months, the three dogs still test my resolve daily.

In much the same way, the US needs to deal with Iran, Syria, and the tribal areas of Pakistan as much as possible. Only so much can be done with diplomacy, information, and economic sanctions. Military action may very well provide the extra incentive to prevent these nation-states from interfering in Iraq.

The vast deserts or mountains between these countries also serve to assist in their separation much like separating the dog bowls in the kitchen keep down fighting. While not foolproof, the physical separation allows me to maneuver to prevent escalation.

Talking to the dogs and telling them to stay after eating never seems to result in face washings. I have to intervene with force occasionally to get them to comply.

The dogs test this arrangement daily as do Iran, Syria, the Pakistani tribal areas, and their supported agents. On days that one of the dogs gets free and scampers under a bed to prevent a face washing, I notice that I have to be extra vigilent with this dog the next day. So too should we be extra vigilent with Iraqi and Afghanistani neighbors.

We need to apply all the instruments of national power, most notably military strikes against Iran and Syria to keep them from interfering with Iraq and similar action in the tribal areas of Pakistan. Many folks I talk with warn me that this will swell international pride in these countries and cause more harm than good.

Just like in the kitchen where I establish a mobile defense to keep peace in the kitchen during feedings, I know this defense will fail if I also don't find the dogs that escape to surrounding rooms under beds and execute offensive face washings.

I cannot help that these countries and their actors will act in much the same was as my dogs. They will daily test my resolve. They typically do not confront me directly, but attempt to escape and evade the fash washing. If I do not show resolve, they become embolded. As they become emboldened, they get more and more out of line and occassionally have to be smacked.

This is the dogs of war.

Iraqi Security Forces Battling Ba'athist Insurgents in Najaf

Reuters at Yahoo, has an article about an ongoing battle in Najaf.

Iraqi security forces were fighting a group of Sunni insurgents holed up in orchards in the Shi'ite holy city of Najaf on Sunday, the provincial governor said, and a witness reported seeing a helicopter come down.

While the focus of the article is an apparent US Army helicopter shot down, what is more revealing is other facts.

Governor Asaad Abu Gilel told Reuters the authorities had uncovered a plot by the fighters to kill some of the clerics on Monday, the climax of the Shi'ite mourning ritual of Ashura, a high point of the Shi'ite religious calendar.

Further down the article, it states,

Abu Gilel said the militants, who included foreign fighters, had arrived in the city disguised as pilgrims in recent days and based themselves in the orchards, which he said had been bought three or four months ago by supporters of Saddam Hussein.

According to the provincial governor, Sunni Ba'athist had a plan to kill Shi'ite clerics on 10th day of Muharram which is the anniversary of the 7th century Battle of Kerbala which helped consolidate the schism between Shi'ite and Sunni Islam. This fact is interesting since this plot was apparently months in the making. However, the most significant part of the article is,

Iraqi forces had now surrounded the orchards and were battling the militants. No U.S. troops were involved in the operation, but U.S. helicopters were providing air support.

Finally, Governor Asaad Abu Gilel is quoted as saying,

Troop reinforcements from the nearby city of Hilla were on their way.

What we are seeing in Najaf is a plot by Sunni Ba'athists to kill Shi'ite clerics on this symbolic Shi'ite day to continue the sectiarian strife that has plagued Iraq. But more importantly, we are seeing Iraqi forces and intelligence uncovering this plot, surrounding the enemy, and moving in reinforcements to kill these insurgents. All of this without US troop support.

For anybody who is stating that our mission is Iraq is a failure, they only have to look to this article as proof of its success.

The Sunni insurgency is crumbling more and more everyday as Iraqi forces are able to uncover plots like this one in Najaf and destroy not only the insurgents themselves, but also their morale.