Wednesday, October 03, 2007

The Jihadi Ledger

During the Iraq insurgency, Coalition forces have so far killed over 19,000 enemy in battle:

I haven't been too enamored of the body count debate. Demoralizing the enemy is more important than trying to attrite the enemy. They replace losses just have we have despite losses.

Once they lose hope, the replacements will dry up. That has been the enemy strategy, after all. Killing our troops and Iraqis hasn't been done to physically drive us out, but to convince our Congress not to send more troops to replace those who leave after their deployment ends.

Killing the enemy surely has a role in this process of demoralizing the enemy (and is important to reduce our casualties by killing and reducing enemy skill levels and atomizing them so they can't mass), but the enemy can be defeated even if their ranks grow. That's how long wars usually work--each side mobilizes more of its resources to try and overcome the enemy's increased forces. There were more Germans in uniform in April 1945 than in September 1939. That was not a sign Germany was winning World War II. They surrendered in May 1945.

Conversely, enemy morale can be sustained even if their numbers are shrinking. If they think they are winning they will keep fighting.

Which is why I've never been part of the debate on whether Iraq is creating more terrorists than we kill. The enemy would have been expanding their recruitment regardless of whether we were in Iraq. Iraq may very well be the most effective call the enemy has right now, but without Iraq there'd still be Afghanistan to rally the recruits. Or something else.

But once the enemy is broken and no longer can call upon young men to answer the call to the colors, then the enemy breaks. And then the number of enemies drops--perhaps dramatically and in a short time. Fanatical Iranians finally broke in 1988 during the First Gulf War even when observers figured fanaticism could never be broken by Iraqi arms. But failure to reach Jerusalem (yes, they really claimed they were going to liberate Jerusalem through Iraq), Baghdad, or even Basra while losing hundreds of thousands of men in futile offeensives eventually broke the Pasdaran and their Basij cannon fodder.

Which brings us back to Iraq and the Long War. Amir Taheri writes:

Judging by the pro-terror buzz in cyberspace, al Qaeda is facing recruitment problems. One al Qaeda guru, using the nom de guerre of Sheikh Bassir al-Najdi, recently warned that the organization was unable to replace "lost martyrs" in Iraq.

The buzz in pro-terrorist circles is that a whole generation of jihadists has been wiped out. The funeral industry in the Arab countries where most jihadists originate is booming.

Interesting. We are killing and capturing the enemy at a high rate in Iraq as part of the surge. Has this merely been a mechanical effect in Iraq as we've outstipped the enemy ability to replace losses? Will we slow down in killing or the enemy pick up recruiting to compensate? Or are the jihadis really discouraged?

Strategypage writes that the enemy in Iraq is discouraged and surrendering more frequently:

Al Qaeda has lost half its leadership over the Summer, and American intelligence collectors have amassed a huge number of desperate messages from al Qaeda leaders and operatives. Terror attacks are down by more than half because al Qaeda keeps getting run out of their refuges, and, in desperation, keeps asking each other for help. There is not much help. Couriers are still getting through with cash, to buy people and bomb making materials. But most of this stuff is now getting captured, as safe houses are quickly abandoned. When the terrorists are unable to escape, they more frequently surrender, rather than fight to the death. This is a sign of falling morale. This is what the psychologists predicted as the number of desperate messages grew.

I had noticed this back in early August and wondered if this was a new trend or something I just hadn't noticed before:

When fanatics surrender, and fanaticism is their trump card, the utter defeat of the fanatics cannot be far behind. (Though how this affects Shia fanatics is another matter)

So is this a new trend or one I've just noticed now?

I have my answer, it seems.

So will this be a temporary discouragement or will we push this jihadi enemy and break them in Iraq? And, quite likely, in the wider Moslem world?