Former military man Jeff Huber wrote an excellent piece on Military.com regarding the “surge” in Iraq. He points out that the surge was always crafted as a propaganda tactic:
In information operations, the objective, at least the stated one, is so vague and flexible that it doesn’t need to have anything at all to do with the actual military operation. In fact, it’s best if it doesn’t; the less any statement meant for public consumption has to do with reality, the greater freedom of movement the information operator (aka “bull feather merchant” or “BFM”) has.
…[T]he BFMs had to justify escalating the war to the public. Too many brass hats had admitted there was no military solution to the Iraq fiasco, so the “political unification” canard was adopted…[L]ooking ahead, they nested the “security” piece of the puzzle in the original mission statement: establish security in order to allow political unity to come about. Since some measure of decreased violence has been achieved in Iraq, the BFMs can point to it as proof of the surge’s success, and be reasonably confident no one will remember that improving security was the task, not the goal.
Huber then goes on to rip the myth of the “success” of the surge to shreds.
In his three tours of duty in Iraq, David Petraeus has followed the same operational formula: he hands out a lot of weapons, bribes everybody he gave the weapons to not to use them, and transfers the heck out of Dodge before the time bombs he set blow off his successors’ thumbs and noses (Hey, what’s this?).
Four months after Petraeus turned over command of a “tamed” Mosul, the city’s police chief defected and insurgents overran the city. When Petraeus was in charge of training Iraqi security forces, his recruits disappeared into the desert night along with about 190,000 AK-47 rifles and pistols. As commander of all U.S. forces in Iraq, he created “Awakening Councils,” groups of former Sunni militants that Filkins says “are credited by American officials as one of the main catalysts behind the steep reduction in violence there.” More that 100,000 of these former anti-U.S. guerillas have been armed to armpits and put on the dole so they won’t attack Nuri al Maliki’s government forces. Creating the Awakening Councils was the single dumbest thing—among a field of highly qualified contenders for the title—that we’ve done in Iraq, and now, it’s one of the most compelling reasons for us to stay there forever: if we leave, the gravy spigot runs dry, and all our beautiful ugliness will melt out the drain pipe when the Sunni gunmen go back to their old line of business.
And thus it is that our catalyst of victory is the machinery of our failure; we’ve succeeded so well in Iraq that we must stay there always.
I highly recommend reading the entire article. Keep Huber’s points about the vaguaries of propaganda in mind as we start to hear more about why we have to double the U.S. military footprint in Afghanistan. If the ends are not clearly defined in the same way the prior surge’s goals were not clearly defined, it’s propaganda.
And, in light of Huber’s article, we should be ready for spin about Iraq from either direction as the U.S. begins to draw down forces there. If violence increases as we remove troops, our powerholders will claim that it was our troops that made the difference. If violence drops as the troops decrease, the powerholders will claim success. Either way, we “win.”
The surge in Iraq not only failed to bring about needed political reconciliation, but it also failed to stop ethnic cleansing. Flooding Afghanistan with weapons and bribing people not to use them is the foundation for a never-ending occupation.
Maybe that’s what powerholders want: war without end, amen.