Small Wars Journal

Tuesday Night Reading Assignment


Iraqi Force Development 2008 - Cordesman and Mausner, CSIS

The Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) are the key to enduring stability in Iraq, and their ability to secure the country is the single most important factor determining the pace of US withdrawals. The ISF remain very much a work in progress, and MNF-I reporting continues to sharply exaggerate the real-world readiness of Iraqi Army units, and the ability of the ISF to takeover security responsibility in given governorates. Congress and outside observers, however, need to recognize that very real progress is being made and that the exaggerations and flaws in MNF-I and US government reporting do not mean that the ISF cannot steadily reduce the need for US and allied forces over time.

The Iraq War: Key Trends and Developments - Anthony Cordesman, CSIS

The Iraq War is an extremely complex conflict, and one where the overall trends and developments are difficult to track with any clarity. The Burke Chair has developed a detailed briefing on key developments in the fighting, drawing on material provided by the Multinational Force- Iraq (MNF-I), the Department of Defense, Department of State, Iraqi government, and other sources. The briefing surveys sectarian and ethnic trends, progress in political accommodation, developments in the fighting, and trends in casualties. Maps show the steady decline in Al Qa'ida capabilities since mid-2007, but also the broader problems in sectarian and ethnic tensions and conflicts. Breakouts are provided on the trends in the fighting in Anbar and Baghdad. Polling data developed by ABC shows how Iraqis view these issues by sect and ethnicity.


The Other Enemy - Ralph Peters, Armed Forces Journal

Can we win in Afghanistan? It's an odd question, considering that we've already won, by historical standards. Yet unrealistic metrics of success continue to pile up, fabricated in ignorance - often willful and even spiteful - of Afghan reality. Political partisans intent on scoring points and media figures desperate for headlines demand the impossible (and not only in Afghanistan.) Increasingly, the greatest obstacle to success in trouble spots where our troops are engaged is our own unwillingness to accept that wars never yield perfect results and rarely yield permanent change. Unaware of historical precedent and dismissing practical limitations, we increasingly insist on ideal transformations of broken states and regions where reasonable progress is the only fair measure of success. Staying with the Afghan example, a sensible assessment of the possible begins with the recognition that no such country exists or ever has in the sense of statehood familiar to us.

The Afghan-Pakistan War: A Status Report - Anthony Cordesman, CSIS

The Afghan War is not an unreported war in the media, but it is a largely unreported war in terms of useful, unclassified reporting by governments and NATO/ISAF. Only the UN has provided consistent analytic reporting on the progress of the war, and its reporting only goes into significant detail in the area of counternarcotics. The US government has cut back on its reporting over time, and its web pages now do little more that report on current events. Unlike the Iraq War, there is no Department of Defense quarterly report on the progress of the war, and on efforts to create effective Afghan security, governance, and development. There is no equivalent to the State Department weekly status report. Testimony to Congress, while useful, does not provide detailed statements or back up slide with maps, graphs, and other data on the course of the war.


Diplomatic Strategies for Dealing with Iran - Dennis Ross, CNAS

Since the Iranian revolution in 1979, American administrations have struggled to find the right diplomatic strategy for affecting Iran's leadership and the choices it makes. The Carter administration tried pressure, isolation, and engagement to resolve the hostage crisis. Ultimately, only indirect mediation was possible using the Algerians. The Reagan administration, seeing great danger in the possible spread of Khomeini's revolutionary ideology, drew closer to the regime of Saddam Hussein and supported Iraq in the war it initiated with Iran. But the Reagan administration also pursued covert engagement in its bizarre effort to trade arms to gain Iranian help to release American hostages held in Lebanon. The sordid nature of the Iran-contra affair, as well as the perception that there were no reliable or authoritative Iranian representatives to deal with, led the Bush 41 administration to use pressures and unilateral sanctions to try to alter Iranian behavior. The Clinton administration largely followed suit, emphasizing a similar policy of containment rather than engagement as the means of dealing with threatening Iranian behaviors.

The Implications of Military Confrontation with Iran - Vali Nasr, CNAS

War has been an important component of the Bush administration's Iran policy. The administration began its tenure with a call for regime change in Iran, and since it became public knowledge that Iran was pursuing a nuclear capability and was supporting Shia militias in Iraq, Washington has considered veiled military threats as a realistic option to end Iran's ambitions and to persuade it to change course. Talk of war has intimately shaped U.S.-Iran relations during the course of the past five years. Influential voices close to the administration have depicted Iran as an apocalyptic version of Nazism, looking for nuclear Armageddon and world domination. Until a recent National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) report weakened the administration's case for war, the potential for a military conflict was real. The NIE has only put into question a war to stop Iran's nuclear program. But as will be discussed below, although it is the most obvious and urgent casus belli, Iran's nuclear program is by no means the only cause of war, nor the one that could lead to the most grave and prolonged conflict.

Military Elements in Dealing with Iran's Nuclear Program - Ashton Carter, CNAS

"Military action must be viewed as a component of a comprehensive strategy rather than a stand-alone option for dealing with Iran's nuclear program. But it is an element of any true option. A true option is a complete strategy integrating political, economic, and military elements and seeing the matter through to a defined and achievable end. For any military element, the sequel to action must be part of the strategy because the military action by itself will not finish the problem of Iran's nuclear ambitions once and for all. Airstrikes on the Iranian nuclear program or other targets could conceivably reset the diplomatic table in pursuit of a negotiated end to the nuclear program, but they could also easily overturn the diplomatic table. The alternative to the diplomatic table, broadly speaking, is a strategy of containment and punishment of an Iran that ultimately proceeds with its nuclear program. A variety of military measures -- air assault, blockade, encirclement, deterrence -- could be elements of such a containment strategy."

Living with a Nuclear Iran - Richard Haass, CNAS / CFR

"Current U.S. policy toward Iran's nuclear-related activities mostly falls under the rubric of non-proliferation (i.e., working through various forms of denial as well as diplomacy) to prevent Iran from gaining access to the materials and technologies required to advance in the nuclear realm. The problem with this approach is that history suggests that denial strategies tend to slow but not stop governments that are determined to gain a nuclear weapons option or actual weapon and who possess the basic technical and industrial prerequisites to proceeding."


Hybrid Warfare Demands Indirect Approach - Robert Killebrew, Armed Forces Journal

Recent discussions about military advisers and advising allied security forces would benefit from some context. It would be useful to put the larger subject of military assistance into a discussion of future military strategy. First, no matter how we deal with future military strategies, the reality is that we must deal first with the 50-meter target of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Without descending into the Strategy 101 morass of defining victory, the wars there have got to be won, and the U.S. and its armed forces must do whatever it takes to do so. Title 10 concerns about rebuilding the Army and strategizing beyond the current wars will all be useless if we lose and the U.S. becomes a defeated nation. I speak from bitter experience: Losing cuts into a nation's soul, cuts its willingness to lead in foreign affairs, and cuts as well into our nation's willingness to fund its armed forces. Have we forgotten the wilderness years after Vietnam? If history is any guide, the willingness of the government to fund reset of our land forces will be questionable if we are driven out of Iraq, particularly. So even if the wheels fall off vehicles at Fort Hood, Texas, our overseas commanders have got to get the troops and materiel they need to fight both wars to a successful conclusion.

The Counterterrorism Paradox - Brian Burton, Armed Forces Journal

Almost seven years after the 9/11 attacks, the primary military manifestations of America's global war on terrorism are the seemingly interminable campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet there is little evidence that these operations are doing much to reduce the international terrorist threat to America's homeland, people and interests. International terrorism cannot be neutralized through large-scale employment of armed forces. What these wars have demonstrated is that the US does not possess a clear understanding of the threat environment, nor does it have an effective overall strategy or appropriate military forces to mitigate this threat. America faces a threat that is globally diffuse and adaptable. It is, therefore, necessary for the US to adopt a subtler strategy that enlists the aid of allies around the world, and develop similarly subtle forces to counter terrorist groups abroad.


Lies, Damned Lies and COIN - Robert Chamberlain, Armed Forces Journal

It has become a matter of conventional wisdom that insurgencies last an average of 10 years and that the insurgents win about 40 percent of the time. These statistics have appeared in USA Today, PBS, Pentagon media briefings and on National Public Radio. The insight these numbers are meant to convey is that counterinsurgencies are inherently long and difficult struggles against wily and resilient foes, so it is unrealistic to expect rapid, quantifiable progress in the near term. Fortunately, these statistics are misleading and the associated analysis is wrong. The source of this mistaken conventional wisdom is the prestigious Dupuy Institute, which has been providing rigorous quantitative analysis to the military for more than 40 years. In May 2007, Dupuy researchers published the preliminary results of a study in which they examined 63 modern insurgencies for a variety of factors, including the longevity and the success rate of the conflicts. Given their analytical talent and track record of precision, their statistical computations are undoubtedly accurate. The problem, however, isn't with their math; it's with the initial selection of cases.


US Foreign Policy & Regime Instability - James Meernik, Strategic Studies Institute

The author analyzes the extent to which intrastate and interstate conflict and terrorism in other nations are influenced by the depth and breadth of their military and foreign policy relationships with the United States. More specifically, he empirically analyzes the degree to which US military and foreign policies such as the stationing of US military personnel; the use of military force; the provision of foreign assistance, as well as a more general similarity of foreign policy interests between the United States and a foreign regime are statistically related to interstate and intrastate conflict and terrorist activity.


An Odd Prescription - Seth Cropsey, Armed Forces Journal

The House Armed Services Committee, chaired by the venerable and serious Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo., established a panel in 2007 to look at the military's roles and missions. The panel reported its findings early this year and sought responses from AFJ readers ["Request for proposals," US Rep. Jim Cooper, March.] Observing that "every twenty or thirty years, we seem to realize that our national security institutions are driven not by our country's strategic needs, but by petty organizational interests, political expediency, or plain inertia," the roles and missions panel concluded that the time for additional military reform - a "Goldwater-Nichols II" is mentioned specifically - has arrived. This may be true. However, the report looks firmly to the past not only to measure whatever ails the military today, but also as the fundamental answer to today's - and tomorrow's - problems. Rivalry between the military services, the report says, was, and remains, the obstacle to effectiveness. The 1940s Revolt of the Admirals poisoned the atmosphere needed for reform for decades. Passage of the 1986 Goldwater-Nichols legislation was a miracle. US combatant commanders need more bureaucratic/budgetary heft. Creating a new staff position as advocate for future joint warfare might solve the problem.

Why Presidents No Longer Fire Generals - Robert Bateman, Armed Forces Journal

The financial cost of this conflict, by even conservative measures, is approaching that of our largest war. The human cost, although lower as an absolute than many other wars imposed, also has taken a heavy toll on our all-volunteer professional military. In many ways one could consider this conflict, even at this point, one of the largest endeavors the nation ever attempted. In one area, however, the current conflict is anomalous. We have retained nearly all our generals (and admirals) throughout the fight. Only a single brigadier general has been relieved for the performance of duty in a combat zone. Historically speaking, that is a curious fact.

US Overseas Military Presence in the 21st Century - Michael O'Hanlon, CNAS

The next American president will inherit an overseas military base realignment process begun in the first term of the George W. Bush administration. This realignment, guided by an effort known as the Global Posture Review (GPR), was perhaps former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld s chief intellectual and policy accomplishment during his six-year tenure at the Pentagon. Unlike his likely warfighting legacy, particularly in regard to Iraq, the GPR is on generally sound conceptual foundations. But a successful outcome for the Global Posture Review, roughly halfway implemented as of early 2008, will depend on the next U.S. administration refining numerous rough edges of the current plan and redefining the broader national security policy context in which any base realignment will inevitably be viewed.

US Air Force Force Multipliers - Eaglen and Mahaney, Heritage Foundation

While Congress continues debate on the fiscal year (FY) 2009 defense bills, the services continue their work on the Pentagon's 2010 budget proposal in consultation with the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). As is typical during the annual process, the services were told to cut their budgets and programs from their original estimations. The US Air Force, however, is considering dramatic and disproportionate cuts of the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve budgets. The National Guard and Reserves remain the two most cost-effective organizations in the US armed forces and should be bolstered, not reduced. Senior uniformed and civilian defense leaders must make a compelling case to OMB officials at to avoid draconian cuts to the Air Force reserve components in FY 2010. Congress should carefully monitor the budget deliberations to ensure all senior military and civilian defense leaders understand the true value and cost efficiencies - both quantitative and qualitative - that the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve provide America.


Sudan's Interlocking Crises - Stephanie Hanson, CFR

Sudanese government troops and southern Sudanese forces have led a tense coexistence for months in the oil-rich area of Abyei, which straddles Sudan's north and south. Accounts of what ignited the recent fighting (Economist) between the two groups differ, but no one disputes the end result: a town destroyed (WashPost), roughly one hundred thousand people displaced, and the probability of civil war on the rise with each passing day. Abyei exemplifies the most contentious elements of a 2005 peace deal between north and south Sudan. Analysts say the town's future is critical to the viability of that agreement, and by extension, prospects for a resolution to the crisis in Darfur.


Chavez: Beginning of the End - Alex Crowther, Strategic Studies Institute opinon

The President of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, is on the way into the history books. Although he is still positioned to create problems for the Venezuelan people, the Colombians, and others throughout the Western Hemisphere that he chooses to victimize, he is no longer on the ascent.


Preparing for the Next Korean War - Christopher Griffen, Armed Forces Journal

It is early 2012, and six months have passed since the death of North Korean tyrant Kim Jong Il. The Korean People's Army is clearly on the move, but American intelligence officials cannot tell whether it is conducting regular training exercises or if a civil war is breaking out among the post-Kim leadership. Suddenly, a roar breaks the night silence as a salvo of Nodong missiles strikes the mountains of northern Japan. There are no casualties, and North Korea has neither employed weapons of mass destruction nor issued a declaration of war. How does the US and its allies respond? This March, the American Enterprise Institute organized a seminar that posed this question to a group of experts on security in Asia and found the available answers to be dangerously wanting. Although the US has in recent years modernized its military forces in Asia and worked with Japan to expand missile defense in the region, Washington is not ready to deal with many potential crises that could emanate from North Korea.


The Rise of Jihadism in Russia - Dimitri Shilapentokh, Armed Forces Journal

When studying the rise of global jihadism, one often sees the term "Islamofascism." This label is not very workable and emerges not so much as an explanatory model but as a way to make jihadism as repulsive as possible. An appropriate explanatory model would relate the rise of jihadism in Russia and elsewhere not so much with Nazism or fascism as with a revolutionary movement. The rise of Islamic extremism in Russia is indirectly connected with the end of the Soviet Union, which was not just a transition from totalitarianism to political liberty and a self-policed society but also a collapse. Not only state and societal structures but also the very structure of daily interaction between individuals started to change. Analogues to these events can be found in early modern Europe, when the feudal order, with its hierarchical structure and tightly knit groups that both restrained individuals and provided them with a safety net against the vagaries of life, started to fall apart.


Hezbollah's Shadow War - Greg Bruno, CFR

If politics were its principle yardstick, Hezbollah's new ability to veto the decisions of the Lebanese government might seem conclusive. After clashes in west Beirut last month, some analysts declared Hezbollah the victor of the internecine crisis (NYT). Others, including Daily Star opinion editor Michael Young, see the resolution as more of a draw. Either way, Hezbollah's leaders want more. As Hassan Nasrallah said on May 26, the true measure of Hezbollah's worth remains its ability to wage armed resistance against Israel.

Israeli and Syrian Weapons of Mass Destruction - Anthony Cordesman, CSIS

Both Israel and Syria have long been involved in creating weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them. The attached two reports look beyond the narrow issue of nuclear weapons, and summarize developments in each country's full range of weapons of mass destruction -- including chemical and biological weapons -- and delivery systems. Both reports are deliberately conservative, avoiding scare or worst case sources and estimates.

The Rise of Middle East Peacemakers - Hady Amr, Brookings

Amidst all the attention poured on the US presidential race, a powerful new trend is rapidly emerging in the Middle East. The Middle East's governments are increasingly taking a hands-on role in solving the region's problems. After 7 years of the Bush Administration's blunders in Iraq, Lebanon and Israel-Palestine, Middle East leaders feel they can no longer wait for America to get a clear-minded view of problems that would allow for practical solutions. For their own security, Middle East leaders feel compelled to solve their problems because they realize the international community will no longer solve them properly. Ironically, the massive US military deployment in Iraq has created a sort of US power vacuum in the Middle East. The Bush Administration has used up all of America's good will and powers of persuasion and we can't seem to get anything else done.


A New Course for Pakistan - Barton, Samdani, and von Hippel, CSIS

During a two week research trip to Pakistan in mid-April 2008, the PCR team interviewed more than 200 Pakistanis and several dozen expatriates in Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Lahore, Peshawar, Attock, Quetta and Karachi. The team met with the newly elected leadership, former generals, journalists, economists, nationalist leaders, trade unionists, diplomats, university professors, bloggers, ulema, aid workers, security analysts, leaders of the lawyers' movement, and students at an elementary school, a madrassa, an Afghan refugee primary school, and a university.


Rob Thornton

Wed, 06/04/2008 - 8:46am

A batch of good reads.

On the "The Implications of Military Confrontation with Iran - Vali Nasr, CNAS" piece - one thing I have not seen discussed much is the long term effect of our investment in Iraq. It may not have occurred in the manner we anticipated, but what new possibilities with regard to our future ME policy have occurred as a result?

Some of these possibilities may not be so good, but I'd argue that some are. I recently read that Iraq is debating the issue of security agreements with the United States, and is studying other state's bilateral agreements as potential models. Having met (and in some cases developed friendships with) a reasonable range of Iraqis for someone of my pay grade and responsibilities I'd argue we have made some strong relationships with our opposite numbers - and from my observation more good then bad.

We've had a positive effect on developing Iraqi Security Forces, and I'd argue that the ongoing development will result in one of the most capable militaries in the region. Its not just a matter of providing Iraqi forces with a few HMMWVs and rifles, but of the type of change that comes from combined patrols and operations at the squad and platoon level. When you see Iraqi Jundi (soldiers) starting to do the types of PCCs and PCIs that they've seen their U.S. peers execute you begin to realize how deep this relationship has grown.

A quick anecdote on these relationships as related to me by several Iraq NCOs and Officers:

When I got to my Iraqi BN in April of 2006 we embarked on obtaining a few things I thought the BN was in desperate need of - the Iraqi BN CSM (a Joburi) remarked that my method's were reminiscent of "Big Tony's Indian Way". I asked who Big Tony was and got a long and heartfelt story. Big Tony was a U.S. Army Special Forces E-8 who worked closely with the Iraqis in 2004. On 11/11/2004 Mosul was subject to heavy enemy activity with a large number of foreign fighters. Many of the fledging IPs and Iraqi National Guard were targeted and many installations were temporarily overrun. Big Tony rallied the Iraqis (many of which later formed the nucleus of 1/2/2 IA). He led them through the day. Later, Tony and several Iraqis fought into an AIF safehouse and found a false wall with a passage. Big Tony told the Iraqis to stay back as he went first. Some of the accounts differ here in that either Tony was killed as he cornered a suicide AIF fighter, or he he was killed by some type of trip wire IED. Tony's example is celebrated by the IA of 1/2/2 more so then any Iraqi I ever heard about.

The point here is that Tony, and many others have become part of the Iraqi Army mythology - their exploits and sacrifices are larger then life. Much like our own mythology of military heroes - there are many Americans who have fought and fight side by side with the Iraqis. Iraqis are big on photos, and pictures of U.S. soldiers, marines and others with Iraqis adorn screen savers and populate cell phone sim cards. Because of the U.S. partnership on a number of levels from embedded advisors to partner units who provide training expertise, man combined COPs and go out to find the enemy together and come to each other's assistance when in contact there is a bond unlike any other in the ME.

It has been strengthened over time - policy, the media and rhetoric aside, cooperation and reliance on the soldier level has created a foundation for partnership. U.S. service personnel interact daily with many of Iraq's future leaders be they military, police, political, religious, tribal, and business men. Even amongst the occasional self inflicted GSW such as those of the sniper and the Koran - our positive actions and commitment have built something that few have remarked on, or considered what it means in terms of long range U.S. interests.

It does not mean the U.S. could or should ask for anything it desires - that is not how friendships are maintained and strengthened. Our partnership should be equitable, but the friendship upon which the partnership is based should be insoluble. Iraq's security forces have benefited in may ways beyond the obvious by our efforts over the last few years. The invasion withstanding, our interaction on fundamental levels have created a military force that espouses some of our own military values. Over the next few years I suspect those values can continue to increase. In a short year I saw an Iraqi Infantry BN increase in both capability and capacity. A peer here at JCISFA just returned from a short trip to Anbar to collect info on how ISF perceptions have been shaped by our advisors in order to improve our advisory efforts. He was amazed at the improvement in the security forces there since his last tour.

I apologize for being lengthy in making this point, but a discussion about our future with regard to Iran is incomplete without considering some of the positive outcomes in Iraq and Afghanistan. While often viewed as a mistake to create foreign security forces in our military image - this is largely in the context of DOTMLPF - meaning is the security force right for its cultural and political environment. However, one exportable quality that is often overlooked that makes U.S. force so capable and committed are our values to service and to each other. When you involve U.S. forces on the scale we have we're going to share some values and views. We are not creating surrogate forces there a automatons to achieve our purpose - we're starting to see individual soldiers and leaders who value competence and loyalty in ways that we understand. Combine that with a state that can afford to equip, train and sustain a regional military as good or better then any, along with a value system that preserves the right and desire to be its own decider and you have self generating means that speaks to regional stability and will soon be capable of recognizing and acting on its own behalf and interests.

While an optimistic outlook on my part, I feel I have some reason to be. The Iraq that emerges in the next 5-10 years will be far stronger and more capable then the Saddam Hussein Iraq of 1990s.

Best, Rob