8.28.2005

Around the blogsphere


Here's a couple of great articles making the rounds in blogtown.

Foreign Affairs magazine has an article titled How To Win in Iraq, by Andrew F. Krepinevich, Jr. I actually haven't read anything but a summary so far and, while he's certainly on the right path (at least he has a path, unlike a certain president I won't name) I question whether or not his "oil-spot strategy" is possible. At least the heart of his argument seems to be that we need to get back to the roots of solid counterinsurgency tactics and I couldn't agree more. I will read it entirely before saying anymore. But I'm in a typing mood right now instead of a reading one.

The Belgravia Dispatch rips apart the "flypaper theory".

For those of you unfamiliar with the flypaper theory, this is an idea that the real reason we are in Iraq is to fight the terrorists there. Supposedly, Bush knew that sending troops to Iraq would be a big welcome sign to Al-Qaeda, so we go to Iraq and spend a few years wiping out bad guys.

I've always thought this was an insane theory for several reasons. I had made a joke on a private message board I frequent saying maybe that was the real reason we're in Iraq just a couple of days before David Warren hatched the theory on his own (a couple of my visitors were there and actually remember it).

I hadn't made it clear that I was joking and the response was "Nah, that's too Byzantine" which actually isn't a bad thing. The Byzantine empire may have had loony leaders but their military was one of the best the world has ever seen. They fought everyone who was anyone, and some who weren't.

Sassanids and Persians, Saracens, Russians (led by Vikings), Turks, Slavs, Avars, Bulgarians, Franks, Vandals, Ostrogoths, Huns, Sycthians, Lombards, Serbs, Armenians, Georgians, Normans, Hungarians, the Catalan Company, you name it, the Byzantines kicked it's ass.

They lost some, won some, and in the end were betrayed and weakened, but held on for 400 more years, then finally destroyed by the Turks. But they fought with, and wrote, brilliant military texts that studied their enemies every weakness and formed tactics around exploiting every advantage they could. And they did this while us Europeons was still clubbing each other with sticks.

They're my favorite historical army. I've been thinking of making a big post about them so keep an eye out for it.

But anyway, back to the story. "Nah, that's too Byzantine" was the response to my flypaper theory. "Byzantine", of course, has come to mean "unrealistic". I cleared up that I knew it was absurd and was making a joke.

But that theory has only become more popular over time because it gives people a seemingly reasonable excuse for our mangled mission there. Gregory Djerejian does an excellant job of showing why it's absurd.

I would only add one more thing to his destruction of the theory. That is the fact that if the flypaper theory is true, it's a miserable failure. We aren't beating al-qaeda in Iraq. We are taking out a lot of insurgents, but a recent study has shown that most foreigners fighting against us in Iraq are people who have came there to fight alongside the Iraqis. That is, they weren't terrorists before the war, and most of them didn't look like a likely candidates for terrorists. They're just pissed off neighbors joining the Jihad.

There is only a small number of al-qaeda in Iraq, and some are surely backing some of these foreigners whether they know it or not, but we simply aren't putting a hurting on them. We're fighting an insurgency that doesn't really know borders, and if we beat the insurgency maybe any al-qaeda tangos will be the next to go, but most of whatever progress we see in Iraq is not against our real terrorist enemy.



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