Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Just What Is He Talking About?

Thomas Friedman has to be the most over-rated thinker of our time. Sometimes he gets something right but it must be sheer chance, rare moments of clarity, or accurately taking notes when he talks to somebody who does know what he's talking about.

When Friedman says he wants to talk about Iraq, just what the heck is he talking about? Let me just take one portion of his column:

Our core problem in Iraq remains Donald Rumsfeld's disastrous decision - endorsed by President Bush - to invade Iraq on the cheap. From the day the looting started, it has been obvious that we did not have enough troops there. We have never fully controlled the terrain. Almost every problem we face in Iraq today - the rise of ethnic militias, the weakness of the economy, the shortages of gas and electricity, the kidnappings, the flight of middle-class professionals - flows from not having gone into Iraq with the Powell Doctrine of overwhelming force.

Yes, yes, I know we are training Iraqi soldiers by the battalions, but I don't think this is the key. Who is training the insurgent-fascists? Nobody. And yet they are doing daily damage to U.S. and Iraqi forces. Training is overrated, in my book. Where you have motivated officers and soldiers, you have an army punching above its weight. Where you don't have motivated officers and soldiers, you have an army punching a clock.

We won the conventional war in three weeks. Decisively. With few friendly casualties. In what way was this not going in with overwhelming force? Ah, but Friedman says we didn't have enough troops. Right away Friedman betrays that he doesn't know the difference between high intensity warfare and counter-insurgency.

And what of blaming everything on not having enough troops inside Iraq?

Looting? We could have shot a couple hundred but then we'd hear about our "atrocities" and the anti-war side would say that we caused the insurgency by our heavy handedness.

Ethnic militias? So Friedman is saying we'd be better off if we had enough troops to wage war on the Shia and Kurdish militias to disarm them? Just how would have making the other 80% of Iraqis our enemies in addition to the Arab Sunnis been a wise use of extra troops?

The weakness of the economy? Ok, Friedman is pulling my leg, right? How on God's green Earth would more troops have helped the economy unless he's suggesting every soldier and Marine would have a personal maid, butler, cook, gopher, and hooker?

Shortages of gas and electricity? Well this is just getting sad now. Gas shortages come from the artificial low gas prices that has led to a black market where gasoline is actually purchased at the subsidized Iraq price and then exported. Electricity shortages come from 40 years of neglect by the Iraqi government. Or was our elite 101st Oil and Electricy Division going to be the source of magical energy generation capability?

Kidnappings? After Saddam emptied his prisons of common criminals in fall 2002, that genie was out of the bottle. We need good Iraqi cops and detectives to track them down and more US troops would have had exactly zero impact on this problem.

And just how would the flight of middle class professionals have been stopped with a huge American invasion force? I can't even imagine the tenuous causal link that Friedman is asserting.

And then Friedman betrays his complete ignorance by claiming that training for troops is overrated! This is so back assward that I am stunned. Motivation is the key and training is overrated? Recall the highly motivated but poorly trained Basij and Pasdaran that Iran flung against the better-trained Iraqi regulars in the Iran-Iraq War. The Iranians were mowed down by the hundreds of thousands. Training is the most important factor for troop effectiveness. You can't measure it easily and you can't easily tell in peacetime when you fail to do it, but in war training becomes apparent.

And Friedman asks what our strategy is. No doubt he does. Why should he have any more clue about that than anything else he rambles on about in this article. As for his strategy of doubling our troops strength right now, I won't even go beyond asking where we get this troop contingent. While we need more combat brigades generally, Friedman's claim that we need more troops in Iraq makes me feel better about my consistent argument that we have enough troops to win the counter-insurgency fight. Other than Victor Davis Hanson, I've read few who agree with me.

If Friedman wants a clue about our strategy to win, he could hardly go wrong starting here with Mackubin Owens (via Powerline):

The rapid tempo of Coalition operations will likely continue. Indeed, as U.S. and Iraqi forces shut down these ratlines, the insurgency will likely fall back on its "strategic rear" in Syria. Thus, "hot pursuit" into Syria may soon become an issue.

The U.S. strategy in Iraq is limited by a number of factors: the U.S. forces available, Iraqi politics and the time it is taking to create a competent Iraqi military. But the ongoing river campaign indicates that America has chosen to go on the offensive, taking advantage of the success in Fallujah to deny the insurgents respite. The high operational tempo is intended to rapidly degrade the rebels' lines of communication at both ends of the two river corridors, while killing and capturing as many of the enemy as possible.

But while military operations have weakened the insurgency, military means alone cannot defeat an insurgency. That is why it is necessary to bring the Sunnis into the government. Recent evidence suggests that the steps so far have already begun to drive a wedge between the Sunni and the foreign jihadis who have come to fight for Zarqawi.

Indeed, one of the reasons U.S. forces have been able to go on the offensive — despite the fact that U.S. troop strength is actually lower than it was earlier this year — is an improvement in actionable intelligence. Some of this is coming from captured insurgents. But much of it is coming from Sunnis who realize that their best chance for a future requires them to choose the new Iraqi government and reject the jihadis.

If current trends can be sustained, Zarqawi and his jihadi murderers will soon run out of time and space.

Military and political means will win this war. We are winning.

And somebody tell me why Friedman has the reputation for having a big, sophisticated, liberal brain.