View Poll Results: Do you agree that the insurgency has ended, although the war continues?

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  • Yes, it is no longer an insurgency.

    7 23.33%
  • No, it is still an insurgency.

    23 76.67%
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Thread: Good news -- the insurgency is over! Now we need a new strategy for the Iraq War.

  1. #41
    Council Member RTK's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fabius Maximus View Post
    I will answer the questions already in progress, such as from Culpeper and RTK, but I think with Jedburgh's comment this thread has gone past any reasonable debate.

    Just a parting thought, if this is how you respond to my fairly mild comments -- after all, calls for to build a federated state in Iraq &/or exit fast are common now -- the range of debate here will likely remain fairly narrow. It is your site, and your decision how to run it.
    Question: The title of the piece is "Good news - the insurgency is over!" but your article doesn't really talk about it. It doesn't really make much sense to me as it disavows all definitions of insurgency to say that it doesn't exist. Kinda like the Peshmerga thing. It seems that there are terms being thrown out haphazardly that have very finite meanings that you're using to overstate the case. Can you please explain in more detail exactly what is meant by this title and precisely what you mean by it?

    Looks like I gotta restock the bourbon cabinet. Thanks for the entertaining St. Patricks Day.

  2. #42
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    Default Reply to RTK

    Your question goes to the heart of the issue.

    Wikipedia:
    An insurgency, or insurrection, is an armed uprising or revolt against an established civil or political authority.
    My dictionary:
    insurgency: an organized rebellion aimed at overthrowing a constituted government through the use of subversion and armed conflict.
    This op-ed gives is a syllogism. Perhaps two (loosely defined).

    1. There is fighting.
    2. There is no established national government.
    3. Therefore the fighting is not an insurgency against the national gov't.

    Here is the second one.

    1. There are legitimate local governments in some parts of Iraq.
    2. A national government must either have legitimacy or be composed of parts that have legitimacy.
    3. Therefore the Iraq’s local governments are the basis we should work with to build a federated Iraq state.
    4. Let’s stop attacking the militia and attempt to cut some deals.

    Nothing original in these. These things have been said with increasing frequency during the past year. Perhaps this just frames the arguments a bit differently.
    Last edited by Fabius Maximus; 03-17-2007 at 10:25 PM. Reason: typo! too fast entry.

  3. #43
    Council Member MountainRunner's Avatar
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    Default It's more than semantics

    What I read in some of the rebuttals and questions to FM's "the insurgency is over" is that this is something of a semenatic game. Remember when Rummy ended the insurgency by, to the obvious discomfort and consternation of Peter Pace in one news conference in particular, changing their name to the "Enemies of the Legitimate Governement"? How is Must we ask for the core purpose of the conflicting parties and how is the government really legitimated and by whom to have an insurgency?

    What I find ironic about this thread is that strict semantic parsing is coming from a proponent of 4GW, which relies on extremely loose interpretations of history. If we applied the same fuzzy definitions of "fourth generation warfare" to this debate over "insurgency" (and don't get me started on the evil spawns of 5GW and 6GW), what would we have? I'm betting "insurgency".

  4. #44
    Council Member RTK's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fabius Maximus View Post
    Your question goes to the heart of the issue.

    Wikipedia:


    My dictionary:


    This op-ed gives is a syllogism. Perhaps two (loosely defined).

    1. There is fighting.
    2. There is no established government.
    3. Therefore the fighting is not an insurgency.

    Here is the second one.

    1. There are legitimate local governments in some parts of Iraq.
    2. A national government must either have legitimacy or be composed of parts that have legitimacy.
    3. Therefore the Iraq’s local governments are the basis we should work with to build a federated Iraq state.
    4. Let’s stop attacking the militia and attempt to cut some deals.

    Nothing original in these. These things have been said with increasing frequency during the past year. Perhaps this just frames the arguments a bit differently.
    I guess if you don't believe there's a government in Iraq, then there's nothing I can do to persuade you otherwise.

    I do staunchly disagree with you, and by stating that there is no government essentially says that 8.4 million voters (58%) in December 2005 don't count. That's more of a turnout than we have in the United States, but I guess they just don't count.

  5. #45
    Council Member Culpeper's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fabius Maximus View Post
    I do not understand the nature of your objection. If you could restate it, I'll respond. I do not spend much time here, or on any similar sites, so please tell me if I am violating some protocol.

    I “selectively quote” so that you will know what I am answering, like repeating the question in a meeting. It’s just a pointer, not intended to summarize the previous comment – which is, after all, a scroll down on the screen.

    There were 6 questions. On three I conceded the point. One question of procedure (info sources), which I answered. Two questions on small points, which I answered. If you find any of the answers inadequate, please tell me which one(s).
    It is your style of overusing the quote function. Dissecting a paragraph or several paragraphs is not necessary since you know how to write an articulate article than you can surely write an articulate rebuttal. We are not dummies and don't need to be quoted out of context with overkill, which starts a fight. I don't agree entirely with our SWC forefathers' assessment concerning your motivation. I think you work very hard on sharing your opinion in a very professional manner by writing up a study and posting an external link for those that wish to read it then resort to high school text messaging in response to criticism. It has been a long time since we had this discussion and I don't want to have it any longer. I read your papers. Every single one of them. I had quit responding until today. Looks like I fell off the wagon. That's my fault and not your's. So, please carry on. It is not my intention to make you feel unwelcome. But would you kindly respond to posts in the same manner you write your studies. It will make a more productive, informational, and entertaining thread. For example, when did you become interested in the civil war violence of Iraq? Was it before or after Saddam took power? Surely, you can answer those two questions in the form of a paragraph with plain text and in your own words without fooling around with the icon tools.

  6. #46
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    Default Guilty as charged!

    Quote Originally Posted by MountainRunner View Post
    a proponent of 4GW, which relies on extremely loose interpretations of history.
    I'll have to think about this. There must be a rebuttal, but I cannot imagine what it might be. Where is Lind when I need him?

    I agree with you -- and like your phrasing -- about the evil spawn of 5GW and so forth. They seem like a good idea taken to the point of absurdity.

    I'm betting "insurgency".
    I'll bet on the other said of the question. Perhaps we lack the fine distinctions needed. What are other forms of civil war, other than insurgency?

  7. #47
    Council Member RTK's Avatar
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    If your syllogism holds true, or is worth its weight in salt, then riddle me this:

    If in 2003...

    1. The United States Government overthrew the Saddam Regime in March 2003 thus irradicating the established government
    2. There was fighting
    3. Therefore there hasn't been an established government since 2003, but, since fighting was not directed at an established government, no insurgencey.

    Under your definition, how could there ever have been an insurgency (you used the term "insurgent" as far back as November 2003). Under your narrow definition the insurgency never happened as there hasn't been, in your words, a government in place since Saddam was in power, therefore, no insurgency.

    It doesn't make sense. It's John Kerry-esque. How can this be the case? Please explain....

  8. #48
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    Default How could there ever have been an insurgency?

    Think of these terms – banditry, insurgency, civil war – as a diagnosis. The first diagnosis was fighting with a low level of political activity – by “dead enders.” As the disease progressed the threat assessment also escalated, and there was an “insurgency.” Now it has progressed to the point that the central government – for which we had such hope – appears non-viable. There is probably a specific word for the current condition, this specific type of civil war. (I wish I had thought of this when writing the text).

    Continuing the medical metaphor, each diagnosis leads to a remedy. Now we are treating Iraq with counter-insurgency operations. If the disease has progressed, that might no longer be appropriate. A different form of treatment might be required.

    As with 5GW, we cannot take this metaphor too far or it gets silly. (Do we ally with the cancers in each organ?) It's an illustration.

  9. #49
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    Because the Iraqi government is still in its formative stages and not totally effective does not mean it does not exist.

    A little perspective: In the US, our current Constitution was not adopted until 1787, over a decade after the Declaration of Indepence was adopted in 1776 and the Articles of Confederation became de facto law in 1777.

    More perspective: In 1791 the federal government of the United States raised a force that was personally lead by President Washington to suppress a rebellion by whiskey distillers who were upset about an excise tax on thier products.

    I shudder to think what would have happened if the government under the Articles of Confederation or President Washington under the Constitution had had to fight "dead ender" Tories financed and supported by the British government, an international network of religious extremists, heavily armed criminal organizations, and a homegrown organization of religious extremists covertly supported by neighboring country all at the same time so early in our history. Hell, I shudder to think what would happen if we had to do all that today on US soil.

    PS: As a side note to the Whiskey Rebellion, I think the outcome is relevant today. The federal government attempted to suppress the rebellion with a conventional force of 13,000 Soldiers. The result was the arrest of 20 people, only 2 of whom were convicted of treason, and they were later pardoned by President Washington. The remaining rebels merely disappeared and distillers in areas outside of Federal control kept on distilling.

    PPS: And on the causes of the Rebellion, the small distillers who bore the highest tax rate only distilled because the lack of infrastructure, a failure of government, made it impossible for them to transport their grain to market in any form other than distilled spirits.

  10. #50
    Council Member RTK's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fabius Maximus View Post
    Think of these terms – banditry, insurgency, civil war – as a diagnosis. The first diagnosis was fighting with a low level of political activity – by “dead enders.” As the disease progressed the threat assessment also escalated, and there was an “insurgency.” Now it has progressed to the point that the central government – for which we had such hope – appears non-viable. There is probably a specific word for the current condition, this specific type of civil war. (I wish I had thought of this when writing the text).

    Continuing the medical metaphor, each diagnosis leads to a remedy. Now we are treating Iraq with counter-insurgency operations. If the disease has progressed, that might no longer be appropriate. A different form of treatment might be required.

    As with 5GW, we cannot take this metaphor too far or it gets silly. (Do we ally with the cancers in each organ?) It's an illustration.
    Couple questions in following come to mind:

    1. As one at the pointy tip of the spear, how do we remedy this, if it truely is the case?
    2. Do you think the surge will work, even if it is "civil war?" Why or why not?
    3. Were you ever under the impression that the government was viable? If so, at what point did they fail to be such? If not, doesn't that invalidate many of your writings over the past 3 years?

  11. #51
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    Default Insurgency, quasi-insurgency, or .......

    I'll meet you part way, as you may recall I made other posts on the SWJ Council where I also expressed by doubts that we're dealing with an insurgency, at least in the traditional sense as described by our doctrine. We executed a regime change, and we don't have much, if any, doctrine on that topic, but we do have some history with it, such as Panama, Haiti (successes, at least Panama), and numerous CIA sponsored regime changes.

    However, since we did stand up a government (however ineffective) in Iraq, and since some Iraqis who want nothing to do with it are fighting it (not necessarily to overthrow the government, but to push the government out of their lives), at least part of the trouble in Iraq by definition is an insurgency. As DK wrote (still the best thinker in my opinion on the subject) we have a whopper of a problem with three types of conflict: insurgency, civil war, and terrorists (in this case separate from the insurgents, who also use terrorism as a tactic). The strategy for one problem makes the other worse and so on.

    The real question is will our COIN doctrine work? First it is a crime we haven't really applied COIN doctrine until now (with the exception of certain units at some locals such as Tal Afar, but strategically we haven't). We have to secure the population and hinder freedom of movement for the insurgents, terrorists, and warring ethnic groups, so the strategy we're trying to apply now seems to be best suited to accomplish this. Do we and the Iraqis have enough troops? Enough politcal will? etc. I don't know. I also don't what the political solution is after we attain an acceptable level of security. However, the only reason I would throw in the towel at this point, is so our fighters could wipe the sweat off their brow, then get back to fighting. It is too early to state make a prediction either way.

  12. #52
    Council Member Culpeper's Avatar
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    Bill, I agree with your post. I'm beginning to wonder if Donald Rumsfeld had a copy of the USMC Small Wars Manual sitting on his desk for nothing other than decoration. I believe that the term, "insurgency" is obsolete at this point. Religious, tribal, and civil rights warfare is more like it. Along with terrorist groups just to add a little Jihad to the mix. Let it be known to all awful regimes that the United States can and will topple your power and turn your entire country into utter chaos. No organization has ever won a war by solely concentrating on killing innocent civilians and the so-called insurgency started dying when Iraq established a government and started controlling propaganda.

  13. #53
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    Default comments on several posts

    As Jonslack and Bill note, insurgency is not an all or nothing thing. Rather, the "no insurgency" analysis suggests that the balance has changes such that we should adopt a new strategic direction.

    The alterative to COIN -- perhaps the only alt other than load and leave -- is to attempt putting Iraq on the path that Jonslack describes in our history. America was not built as a top-down project, but from the bottom up. That is, it was built on a foundation of legitimate States and their governing elites. Only after the Civil War (aka the War between the States) was the national structure clearly stronger than the States.

    That suggests, as Bill said, attempting to retain order. Except that in the “Federal” solution we would stop fighting the local militias. Instead work to cut deals with as many as possible. The political and security rails would run in parallel, not in series.

    As usual, RTK asks some pointed but pertinent questions. Answers:

    1. Do as described briefly above, and in more detail in my op-ed.

    2. I do not comment on current ops. All that I’ll say is in the article, the Mao quote.

    3. From the start I shared the opinion of the real experts, the A-team, in the 4GW community. Most were of this opinion before the war started that we can destroy a state but not build one. We’re in the era of “the decline of the state” as described by Martin van Creveld. Failed or wrecked states easily fragment into situations like the 30 years war, where many factions – divided among varying lines – fight one another.

    This suggests another reason to stop fighting the local elites. If we do break them, that might not build the center. Rather it might initiate another round of disintegration. This is Lind’s worst case, where we have nobody to negotiate with.

  14. #54
    Council Member RTK's Avatar
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    1. Don't buy, as you've gone into no detail, nor do you offer solutions.
    2. Don't buy, it's as you have before. No substance to a real issue. You seemto shy away from these.
    3. I don't believe you know what you're talking about. Perhaps after speaking firsthand to those who are power brokers you'd understand. You clearly don't.

  15. #55
    Council Member jcustis's Avatar
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    Default

    3. From the start I shared the opinion of the real experts, the A-team, in the 4GW community.
    Who are these folks?

    I've weighed a federal Iraq pretty heavily in my mind for quite a while, but I still do not pretend to know what that actually gets us. What are the benefits to that versus an Iraq structured on a central government?
    Last edited by jcustis; 03-18-2007 at 04:54 AM.

  16. #56
    Council Member Ironhorse's Avatar
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    Default Federated Iraq? Bah humbug

    Seems like a magic pill solution to me. And too big a pill to swallow at this point.

    JonSlack provides a nice summary of our own growing pains.

    Iraq cultural experiences include the extremes of excessively concentrated central government power, and tribalism/localism with only loose and fleeting alliances based on specific issues or relationships. Compromise, a key to a federal system, is not in the vernacular.

    For the metaphor crowd, I would say that this is NOT a case of just teaching an old dog a new trick, but one of not being able to make a horse drink.

    The net of this cultural impasse, as I see it from my comfortable suburban living room at the moment, is that there is no feasible third way -- make Plan A work, or let there be civil war, but we can not realistically try to apply the political equivalent of the Triple Lindy just because we gooned up the early attempts at a strong central democracy.

    Has anyone seen an outline for a federal solution, and path to get there, that they feel is workable? I.e. anything more than escapism and inventing a COA C, just becasue COAs A and B don't seem pat?

  17. #57
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    Default Will it work?

    I agree with Ironhorse that the best metaphor might be “but one of not being able to make a horse drink.”

    As Ironhorse and Jcustis have noted, re-building an Iraq state along Federal lines might not work. It's not clear that we know how to build a state, or even understand the dynamics involved. Again borrowing from Ironhorse (who used this in a different context), state formation is “a magic pill solution.” We try it over and over because all we have are these pills, and we hope they’re magic.

    Look at what follows the collapse of empires in Europe (Russian, ottoman, QAustro-hungrey, German). Equally bad or worse was the process of state formation following de-colonization of colonies in SE Asia, India/Pak, Central and South America, and (horrific) Africa. Lots of wars until things sort themselves out. Some just never seem to sort out.

    As Ironhorse says, many have not given up on the top-down approach in Iraq. Question: at what point would you say this approach has failed?

    What does a federal Iraq get us? It's a bottom-up path to building a central gov't. It’s a plan “B.”

    The only other solution is creating 3 smaller states. Kurdistan and Shia-land might work, although our allies the Turks might not like it. Also, as small, oil-rich states they might be too vulnerable to survive.

    Unfortunately the third piece, central Iraq, looks to be a poor, multi-ethnic, war zone if left to its own resources.

    RTK, this was an op-ed, advocating a change of direction. A turn signal, not an operational plan. This scenario calls for a “stand down the forces” and “get everyone around the table” process. The best that can be said for it is that sometimes it works. If it doesn’t? We give up and leave, or try something else.

    This is of course just a guess, but I think domestic political considerations favor this course. It might be given more time to work than continued COIN.

    Off-topic: Professor Colin Kahl of the Political Science Dept at the U of Minnesota wrote a brief on the evolution of our COIN ops in Iraq.
    Posted on "Informed Consent"
    Blog of Juan Cole, Prof History, U Michigan
    http://www.juancole.com/

  18. #58
    Council Member Stan's Avatar
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    Default My 2 Cents herein

    Hello FM !

    I have some reservations about your most recent posts.

    Look at what follows the collapse of empires in Europe (Russian, ottoman, QAustro-hungrey, German). Equally bad or worse was the process of state formation following de-colonization of colonies in SE Asia, India/Pak, Central and South America, and (horrific) Africa.
    I have worked in horrific Africa for many, many years and won't begin to pretend I could compare it with Iraq or Afghanistan. It's simply not possible.

    I'm not sure why you plugged in the "Off-topic: Professor Colin Kahl".

    Although his article is somewhat relative, it seems nothing more than an over-simplistic view of nearly five years, thousands dead and changes in command.

    He commences with 'Theres a lot of confusion' about COIN and the US Military's approach since the fall of Saddam. Summarizes the whole sheebang with denial, learning curves, gettin' it and doing it and then has the balls to sum up with 'This shift makes sense from the perspective of COIN' and better yet, ends with 'What the briefing doesn't say is that it is also unclear whether employing COIN best practices will work in the context of not only a raging insurgency'.

    Ya know, I didn't get anything out of that, at all

    Lastly, why the sudden derailing into female soldiers ?
    This would have been a good post all on its very own.

    Regards, Stan

  19. #59
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stan Reber View Post
    ...Lastly, why the sudden derailing into female soldiers? This would have been a good post all on its very own.
    Agree with the last statment. The post on female soldiers has been moved into its own thread

  20. #60
    Small Wars Journal SWJED's Avatar
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    Default Four Phases of U.S. COIN Ops in Iraq

    Quote Originally Posted by Fabius Maximus View Post
    ... Off-topic: Professor Colin Kahl of the Political Science Dept at the U of Minnesota wrote a brief on the evolution of our COIN ops in Iraq.
    Posted on "Informed Consent"
    Blog of Juan Cole, Prof History, U Michigan
    http://www.juancole.com/
    Professor Kahl has been kind enough to grant the SWJ permission to post his e-mail, the following link also contains a link to the Andrew Krepinevich briefing that generated his e-mail - The Four Phases of the U.S. COIN Effort in Iraq.

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