Small Wars Journal

Comments on Bing West's Iraq Trip Report

Several excerpts from and links to recent blog posts on Bing's latest SWJ Iraq trip report:

Westhawk: Bing West and a 'Bottom-up' Approach

Mr. West seems very pessimistic about the upper reaches of the Iraqi government. The politicians and officers at the top are corrupt, incompetent, or disloyal to the whole country. This does not leave much hope at this point that Iraqi society can come together in a unified effort against the country's violence.

In his point #4, Mr. West mentions that the Americans are already preparing for what will happen after the "surge" strategy ends (in either success or failure). According to Mr. West, this summer the Americans will select advisor team leaders for assignments to Iraqi units, with duty presumably beginning in the autumn.

As we have mentioned in previous posts this week, this September the American political situation will likely force a change in the U.S. military strategy in Iraq.

The Belmont Club: Ear to the Ground

Bottom line: Iraqis on the ground are increasingly doing well but Iraqis at the top are screwing up. One reason why diplomatic solutions sometimes fail is that higher levels of abstraction are achieved at the price of losing information in detail. This problem is solved in data-mining situations by allowing the user to "drill down" and rediscover the detail. But that presumes you have a drill. This loss of information is especially acute in countries where national systems do not have an adequate correspondence with actors on the ground. Whatever the shortcomings of the US involvement in Iraq might be, especially under the strategy where troops are fielded in community-based joint security stations or patrol bases, is that it has resulted in a "bit bang" or information explosion which mutually influences operations on the ground on both the Iraqi and American sides.

ShrinkWrapped: Optimism and Pessimism

The second reason for optimism is that even if the surge fails in its political objective, ie establishing conditions whereby the Iraqi government makes the difficult political decisions necessary to end the sectarian estrangement, thereby ending the support for the insurgency, both Democratic realists and Republican strategists have a nidus of a plan which any future administration can use as an ongoing foundation for the war against Islamic fascism.

The Fourth Rail: Bing West's Iraq Report

Bing West's observations on the state of the Iraqi Army and police, both challenges and setbacks, largely mirror my own. He also makes several recommendations for moving forward, but only considers Baghdad and Anbar province as the major centers of gravity in Iraq. Here is where I disagree. While Baghdad and Anbar province are vital to success, securing both the Baghdad "belts" and Diyala are integral to the security effort, and the absence of these two theaters in his report is a glaring omission.

PrairiePundit: Iraqi Trip Report Congress Should Read

West provides on the ground experience and details that will not be found in mainstream media stories. I highly recommend reading this in full if you are interested in what is happening in the war and what it is going to take to win. Those who want to lose should avoid reading this because you may be disappointed.