Friday, April 22, 2005

Draining the Swamp

The title is as close as I'm going to get to an Earth Day event. I suppose I should have called the swamp a wetland and then pledged to preserve it at all costs instead of drain it. Hmm, perhaps the latter would explain a lot about the anti-war Left.

But I digress.

Reverend Sensing has a good post about denying the insurgents support as the key to winning a counter-insurgency campaign:

Iraq under Saddam was literally a secular version of Islamist fanaticism. Replace Afghanistan’s cult of Quran with a cult of Saddam and that was Iraq. Perhaps it was even worse, since Saddam’s security apparatus was even more comprehensive and ruthless than the Taliban’s. Civil services under Saddam were not much better than they are now and in fact services in many parts of Iraq now are enormously better than they ever were under Saddam. That’s drying up the lake in which the Iraqi insurgencies swim - and note the plural, “insurgencies.” There’s more than one, and that’s the topic of an upcoming post.

This is why I've never thought lack of troops was a problem in Iraq. This is why I didn't like the idea of body counts to measure success in Iraq.

Sure, killing the active insurgents is a necessary component of defeating insurgents but it is not key. Look at the war from our point. Despite what opponents of the war call "heavy" casualties, our troop strength in Iraq has not dropped one bit. We replace our losses and keep fighting. The insurgencies (as Sensing notes) needed not to kill our army but kill our ability to send troops to Iraq. Attrition simply could not wreck our ability to send troops. Only killing our morale so we didn't want to send more troops could reduce our strength.

Likewise with the insurgents. Kill off their fighters and they recruit more (through ideology, fear, or importation), and they keep fighting. Kill a lot and they simply hunker down until they recruit more. The key has always been drying up the recruits and support--draining the swamp.

We are doing this. Our non-military efforts from medicine to reconstruction to elections have made joining the insurgencies less appealing. On the military side we did not declare free-fire zones and create more insurgents than we killed by indiscriminate military actions.

And on the other side, by not flooding Iraq with troops, we avoided providing too many soft targets as support troop levels would have surged. And we made our support troops harder targets with secure bases and rigorous convoy training. We added rapidly evolving training and tactics to outfox the enemy as they adapted. So our efforts kept our troops heading to Iraq to fight.

Of course, killing the insurgents is still necessary. It is a war.