If Kronicaly Bad Speling and excessive use of italiks bothers you, prepare to be bothered.

Friday, July 01, 2005

On Bad Ideas

One of the consequences of Bush's refusal to debate policy details in Iraq is that bad ideas are brought into the public square with dangerous regularity. They can be effectively shot down, as the timetable meme was, but after a while such a strategy simply makes the White House look negative and inflexible. The mantra 'this is a bad idea, stay the course' should be replaced with 'this is a bad idea, here's why, and here is what we are going to do instead'.

Kenneth Pollack of the Brookings institute is a serious man with serious ideas about Iraq and the War on Terror. His Op-ed "Five Ways to Win Back Iraq " in todays New York Times, however, is chocked full of bad and potentially disasterous ideas.

"Think safety first A main point of counterinsurgency operations is that ensuring the safety of the people and giving them an economic and political incentive to oppose the insurgency is more important than fighting the insurgents themselves."

"We should instead be building safe zones in cities and rural areas, and guarding communications and transportation sites, to allow Iraq's political and economic life to revive."

While it is true to a point that safeguarding civilian reconstruction is a critical component to beating the insurgents, it is a deadly dangerous idea to go defensive at this time. Pollack is a big one for learning historical lessons, but apparently he has forgotten the lessons of Fallujah. When you let the enemy sit back in safe zones and attack you on his schedule, you are going to eventually find yourself in deep trouble.

Pollack shouldnt cherry pick his truisms for how to defeat an insurgency. One of the anti-insurgency commandments is 'thou shalt not allow your enemy a sanctuary'.

Achieving these goals will require more than the 155,000 troops in the country, and it is time for the Bush administration to bite the bullet, whether by deploying additional standing forces, calling up reserves, or spurring recruitment by increasing pay and benefits

This is another bad idea. Two years ago, it would have been wise to bring significantly more troops to Iraq, but that train has sailed. Bringing more troops into Iraq will incite the very people Pollack earlier claimed were vital to victory. As I have blogged about before it is critical that we demonstrate to the Iraqis that we are not interested in staying in Iraq indefinately. Bringing in more troops will send the opposite signal, and quite possibly start to chaff the Shiia which would will put us in true danger of defeat. We need to be speaking of metrics by which the security and liberty of Iraq can be confirmed, and hence we can draw down troops. Pollack's suggestion promises the exact opposite result.

In the shorter term, however, we can put a big dent in the insurgency by reaching out to Sunni tribal leaders and paying them protection money.

In the remainder of the article, Pollack makes suggestions for ideas we are either currently already doing (joint foot patrols with Iraqi army units, read a milblog Ken) or strategies that have been tried and discarded, in this case paying off the local Poobahs. Again, nice idea in theory, in practice Iraqi Shieks dont stay bought. Millions have been spent bribing tribal leaders, sometimes it shows results but much more often the Shieks take the money and plead innocence and ignorance when the EIDs go off in their towns. Human beings respond to fear and greed. Fear of being blown to bits by a foriegn lunatic or rival Iraqi will always outweigh whatever bribe we drop on them. Pollack should know that.

Ideas are good things, and even bad ones add to the dialog. But when they arent effectively countered they tend to take on lives of their own. The stakes are just too high to allow seemingly prudent tactics that history has shown to be dangerously counterproductive to have any possibility of catching fire.


Post a Comment

<< Home