Every battle is won before it is fought

— Sun Tzu

The battle for Baghdad appears to be lost even as it starts.  From Damien Cave and Richard A. Oppel Jr. of the New York Times:

BAGHDAD, Feb. 5–A growing number of Iraqis are saying that the United States is to blame for creating conditions that led to the worst single suicide bombing in the war, which devastated a Shiite market in Baghdad on Saturday. They argued that the Americans had been slow in completing the vaunted new American security plan, making Shiite neighborhoods much more vulnerable to such horrific attacks.

They started the battle without the additional troops they said they needed to fight it.  Hmm.  Where have we seen that happen before?

And they took down significant portions of the Mahdi Army who were protecting the Shiite neighborhoods without enough regular forces to fill the security void.  The U.S. “surge” is moving too slowly and, according to Naeem al-Kabbi, the deputy mayor of Baghdad, “the Iraqi Army is not ready.”

The Iraqi Army is not ready?

Is this Iraq fiasco starting to look like the movie Groundhog Day or what?

Patience, Camille

From the Times:

Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, the American military spokesman in Iraq, called for patience as the new security plan rolls out. “Give the government and coalition forces a chance to fully implement it,” he said in remarks carried by several news agencies.

There’s that word “patience” again.  I’m out of patience with it.  

The “enemy” has adopted new tactics, so we’re adopting new tactics.  We’ve been hearing about our new tactics to counter their new tactics since 2003.

The “enemy” is complex: Shia militias, Sunni militias, al-Qaeda, death squads and crime gangs.  You know: the same complex enemy it’s been all along.

The new U.S. commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, is putting together a panel of experts to help reverse the situation.  His predecessor, General George W. Casey, did that too.  So did Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman General Peter Pace.  

Pundits and politicians alike have been telling us for years that there is no military solution in Iraq, yet the administration and the Pentagon continue to seek a military solution.  Nothing new there.  

The method to the madness

Nor is there anything new about this warfare-centric administration kicking off a military operation by shooting itself in the foot, but good golly, will they ever learn?

It doesn’t take a Clausewitz to figure out that you don’t initiate actions with fewer troops than you know you need and is dependent on an ally–in this case the Iraqi government and its security forces–meeting benchmarks that it’s already failed to meet.

In Mark Helprin’s magnificent novel A Soldier of the Great War, someone asks why a madman is being allowed to run Italy’s World War I strategy.  The answer: “Because we’re winning.”  

The madmen behind the curtain in our present war–Dick Cheney, Bill Kristol, Fred Kagan and the rest of the neoconservative cabal–are losing.  Losing large.  And yet they’re still in charge.  

My crystal ball is no clearer than anyone else’s, but here’s how I think is going on behind the scenes, and this scenario will play out.

The madmen have already said they’ll execute the escalation strategy regardless of what Congress tries to do stop them, and they’ve already started the escalation without the troops they supposedly need to pull it off.  By turning the situation into a bigger quagmire than it already is, they’ll argue that the “Defeatocrats” need to go along with the troop increase to bail out the troops already in the soup or they won’t be supporting the troops.

In other words, this half-cocked, premature launch of the Battle of Baghdad is a stratagem to blackmail Congress into giving the administration what it wants.  

Again, nothing new.

In all, the main differences between the Iraq War and Groundhog Day are 1) Groundhog Day was fiction, 2) Groundhog Day was funny, 3) the main protagonist of Groundhog Day learned from his past mistakes, 4) Groundhog Day made more money than it cost to make and 5) in Groundhog Day, nobody got permanently maimed or killed.  


Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia.  Read his commentaries at Pen and Sword.

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