June 27, 2007

"We played the enemy’s game for too long..."

Not everyone realizes that "the Surge" is not primarily a matter of increased troop levels, but is mainly a change in tactics. This discussion by Dave Kilcullen in the Small Wars Journal blog (Thanks to InstaPundit) is very good.

....The "terrain" we are clearing is human terrain, not physical terrain. It is about marginalizing al Qa’ida, Shi’a extremist militias, and the other terrorist groups from the population they prey on. This is why claims that “80% of AQ leadership have fled” don’t overly disturb us: the aim is not to kill every last AQ leader, but rather to drive them off the population and keep them off, so that we can work with the community to prevent their return.

This is not some sort of kind-hearted, soft approach, as some fire-breathing polemicists have claimed (funnily enough, those who urge us to “just kill more bad guys” usually do so from a safe distance). It is not about being “nice” to the population and hoping they will somehow see us as the “good guys” and stop supporting insurgents. On the contrary, it is based on a hard-headed recognition of certain basic facts, to wit:

(a) The enemy needs the people to act in certain ways (sympathy, acquiescence, silence, reaction to provocation) in order to survive and further his strategy. Unless the population acts in these ways, both insurgents and terrorists will wither, and the cycle of provocation and backlash that drives the sectarian conflict in Iraq will fail.

(b) The enemy is fluid, but the population is fixed. (The enemy is fluid because he has no permanent installations he needs to defend, and can always run away to fight another day. But the population is fixed, because people are tied to their homes, businesses, farms, tribal areas, relatives etc). Therefore—and this is the major change in our strategy this year—protecting and controlling the population is do-able, but destroying the enemy is not. We can drive him off from the population, then introduce local security forces, population control, and economic and political development, and thereby "hard-wire" the enemy out of the environment, preventing his return. But chasing enemy cells around the countryside is not only a waste of time, it is precisely the sort of action he wants to provoke us into. That’s why AQ cells leaving an area are not the main game—they are a distraction. We played the enemy’s game for too long: not any more. Now it is time for him to play our game....

Things are getting very interesting. And this is actually a fascinating confirmation of the wisdom of the men who wrote our Constitution. The Democrat/News-Media/al Qaeda Alliance has to provide the illusion of defeat and hopelessness not just right now, but over several election cycles. In a parliamentary system we might already be sunk. But our Constitution delays and attenuates the effects of popular hysteria. The founders wanted a republic, but were rightly distrustful of democracy. So the House changes on a two-year cycle, the presidency every four years, the Senate every six...

Posted by John Weidner at June 27, 2007 6:43 AM
Weblog by John Weidner