Small Wars Journal

Mid-Week Reading...

To Raise Them Up. Part 1: The Lesser and Greater Insurgencies of the Philippines by B.A. Patty at The Long War Journal

B.A. Patty was recently embedded with the Armed Forces of the Philippines. In part one of his three-part series, Patty examines the roles of organizations such as Abu Sayyaf and MNLF in the insurgency and what Filipino and US troops are doing to squelch terrorist activities.

Debating Iraqi Federalism is Pointless by Westhawk at Westhawk

Howls of protest greeted a recent non-binding resolution passed by the U.S. Senate. That resolution, which received a bipartisan 75-23 approval, called for a "soft partition" of Iraq into Sunni, Shi'ite, and Kurdish regions, while retaining Iraqi sovereignty under a weak central government.

Prime Minister al-Maliki, leading Sunni politicians, U.S. Ambassador Crocker, and the U.S. State Department in Washington all shouted down the Senate resolution.

Why is the Use of Anthropology a Contentious Issue? By Marcus Griffin, Ph.D., at From an Anthropological Perspective

The debate in a nutshell is as follows. The general objection to anthropologists working with the military is that research will be used to facilitate the capture, torture, and killing of Iraqis. The professional code of ethics we abide by states that we must not conduct research that will cause harm to research subjects or the subject population. This code came out of the Vietnam War experience whereby some anthropologists used social network analysis to identify tribal leaders that the CIA apparently then assassinated. The second objection is that by using the anthropological perspective, US Forces will be in a position to more effectively prolong their "illegal occupation of Iraq." I am embarrassed to say that academia is taking this issue very seriously, with some anthropologists writing in the blogosphere to get the national association to consider certain sanctions that include denying the publication of any research conducted in association with the military. That is serious because it leads to ignorance generally and specifically denies faculty like me avenues to measure scholarship and service for purposes promotion and merit pay...

Iraq Symposium: If We Fail by Steve Schippert at Threats Watch

Regarding the consequences of failure in Iraq, along with Ralph Peters, Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, Kimberly Kagan and Dr. Rohan Gunaratna, ThreatsWatch recently participated in a FrontPage Magazine Symposium: If We Fail. Much was discussed and the general conclusion that the consequences of failure in Iraq would be most severe, there was some disagreement among the group regarding particulars.

Too Soon To Dance on Al Qaeda in Iraq's Grave? By James Gordon Meek at Counterterrorism Blog

On the heels of Tom Ricks and Karen DeYoung's excellent Washington Post piece about the internal military debate over whether to declare victory over Al Qaeda in Iraq, given its decimation, we write in today's New York Daily News about those in the intelligence community who feel it's way too soon to dance another victory jig in Baghdad's Paradise Square. CTBlog contributors Evan Kohlmann and Bill Roggio are quoted in my story, as are several intelligence officials who were curiously hesitant to even confirm that AQI has its back to the wall.

12 Captains by Jules Crittenden at Forward Movement

This will be cited as more iron-clad proof that the military can't win in Iraq, and even the military doesn't think so. Petraeus' erstwhile counter-insurgency advisor, Australian LTC David Kilcullen, said an interesting thing recently. When you served in Iraq tends to color how you view Iraq. Here's the list of captains and when they served. No 2007s in there. All the 2007s are still over there. I'd add that where you served probably makes a difference as well, as some critics have suggested the NYT's seven grunt war critics who are 2007-deployed soldiers were doing combat patrols in a particularly bad area. However, along with those seven grunts and a handful of generals, this oped will be cited as evidence the military itself doesn't think it can win.

Reorganizations and Defections within the Insurgency in Iraq by Herschel Smith at The Captain's Journal

In Iraq: al Qaeda's Quagmire, we noted that al Qaeda in Iraq had lost one of its few remaining allies in Iraq, Asaeb al-Iraq al-Jihadiya, or "the Iraqi Jihad Union," due to pointless violence perpetrated on them by elements affiliated with al Qaeda in the Diyala province. These jihadists are similar in nature to Hitler's Nazi Germany and Stalin's Russia in that violence doesn't have to be directed or meaningful, per se. It only has to intimidate. Those who suffer in its wake are fodder for a power grab. But it always has unintended consequences, and has never won the long term struggle for the soul of a population.

Is Blackwater Evil? By John Robb at Global Guerrillas

Here's another example of dysfunction in our societal discussion about the future of security: rather than an informed/constructive debate on the future of private military contractors in warfare (a big topic that WILL NOT go away), we end up demonizing Blackwater with hyper-ventilation from Scahill, Singer (Salon) and the New York Times. If anything, Blackwater's current problems have everything to do with its (ill advised) super-macho image and anger over an unpopular/unsuccessful war. In truth, it's simply a security company with an excellent reputation for keeping its high value clients alive and a record of violent incidents in a dangerous war zone on par with the US military's experience. Were we expecting something different?

No, the real issues lie much deeper than this. It has to do with unease with the underlying shift from "defense" to "security."

Folly to Attack Iran? By Dr. David Betz at Kings of War

Not that I've done any scientific survey of opinion on the matter but it seems to me that by and large most analysts and pundits are broadly in accord with the argument in the article linked to above: attacking Iran would be a bad idea. That, more or less, is the view I hear from colleagues here in the Department of War Studies. We'll just have to learn to live with a nuclear Iran--as we have a nuclear China, India, Pakistan, and now North Korea. (Note, nobody seriously doubts that Iran is working towards a nuclear capability).

I beg to differ. I think Hillary Clinton is right to strike a hawkish note on Iran. While I see no reason to attack this instant a certain amount of credible saber-rattling now may make saber-wielding later less necessary; but ultimately, if Iran cannot be encouraged to desist by diplomatic and other means, then other other means must be employed: force. The CSM article makes a strong argument against it which, for me, is ultimately unconvincing.