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Thread: Der Spiegel's Amazing Article on Iraq

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    Council Member Cavguy's Avatar
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    Default Der Spiegel's Amazing Article on Iraq

    All,

    I caught this reading the SWJ Op-ed update. A week and a half ago my German father in law sent me the article in German - but due to my limited skills I wasn't able to get the full effect. I quite simply is one of the most balanced and accurate portrayals of Iraq today I have read ....

    http://www.spiegel.de/international/...499154,00.html

    When describing Iraq, the word "peace" is seldom used. Truth be told, the Americans have restored order to many parts of the county. But Iraq remains fractured, and where new schools are built today, bombs could explode tomorrow.
    and

    Ramadi is an irritating contradiction of almost everything the world thinks it knows about Iraq -- it is proof that the US military is more successful than the world wants to believe. Ramadi demonstrates that large parts of Iraq -- not just Anbar Province, but also many other rural areas along the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers -- are essentially pacified today. This is news the world doesn't hear: Ramadi, long a hotbed of unrest, a city that once formed the southwestern tip of the notorious "Sunni Triangle," is now telling a different story, a story of Americans who came here as liberators, became hated occupiers and are now the protectors of Iraqi reconstruction.
    and

    Every child in the city knows the story of how, on May 16, 2007, terrorists attempted to stage a massive attack. Using four car bombs, they first blew up two bridges across the Tigris River in the city's northwest. A short time later, three other car bombs exploded in front of the headquarters of the district police. They, too, were packed with explosives, ripping craters into the ground the size of swimming pools. An eighth bomb struck a police station in the southeast. The attackers followed each of the bombings with an assault with rockets, machine guns and Kalashnikovs. It was clear, on that May 15, that the terrorists were intent on scoring a major coup. But they failed, and in doing so they lost their war.

    The Iraqi police officers and soldiers, who until then had not been expected to perform well in combat, threw themselves into battle. Even the wounded refused to be carried off the battlefield, continuing to fight as best they could. Heroes were born on that day in May, the kind of heroes that the entire country sorely needs -- not Sunni, not Shiite, not Kurdish or Assyrian or Turkmen heroes, but Iraqi heroes.
    Let me just state that this is from the magazine that regularly features anti-US foreign policy covers and has been a scathing critic of the Bush administration. That they would publish something like this - the magazine version in German spans 8 pages - is nothing short of amazing.
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    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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    Thanks for the link! It's a very interesting piece especially, as you said, considering the source.
    "On the plains and mountains of the American West, the United States Army had once learned everything there was to learn about hit-and-run tactics and guerrilla warfare."
    T.R. Fehrenbach This Kind of War

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    Council Member Xenophon's Avatar
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    Pretty amazing. I remember a Der Spiegel article that opened simply with the sentence. "The United States has lost in Iraq," or something to that effect.

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    Council Member Stan's Avatar
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    Default German Mag: US Military in Iraq More Successful Than World Wants To Believe

    More from the German side of the fence. Could it be a compliment ?

    Read the following paragraph, and imagine it being written by a member of the mainstream media (emphasis added throughout):

    Ramadi is an irritating contradiction of almost everything the world thinks it knows about Iraq -- it is proof that the US military is more successful than the world wants to believe. Ramadi demonstrates that large parts of Iraq -- not just Anbar Province, but also many other rural areas along the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers -- are essentially pacified today. This is news the world doesn't hear: Ramadi, long a hotbed of unrest, a city that once formed the southwestern tip of the notorious "Sunni Triangle," is now telling a different story, a story of Americans who came here as liberators, became hated occupiers and are now the protectors of Iraqi reconstruction.

    Shocking, yes? Probably written by The Weekly Standard's Bill Kristol or some other conservative columnist, right?

    Well, such is not the case, for this truly amazing article was published by Germany's Der Spiegel Friday, which as Ray Drake pointed out to his readers on Monday, has consistently been a staunch opponent to the Iraq war and George W. Bush.
    Much more at the link...

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    Council Member Cavguy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stan View Post
    More from the German side of the fence. Could it be a compliment ?



    Much more at the link...
    Stan,

    That's actually the same article!
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    Council Member Stan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cavguy View Post
    Stan,

    That's actually the same article!

    Hey Cavguy !
    Ummm, kinda sorta. The review performed by Noel Sheppard however provides his own spin to the article. Not only as an American Featured Writer, but a business owner as well.

    Amazing.

    The reader is strongly encouraged to take the time to review all eight segments of this astounding report that really should be required reading for all American journalists and politicians who still question whether or not the surge is working.

    Bravo, Der Spiegel. Bravo!

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    Council Member Cavguy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stan View Post

    Hey Cavguy !
    Ummm, kinda sorta. The review performed by Noel Sheppard however provides his own spin to the article. Not only as an American Featured Writer, but a business owner as well.
    Hey, no worries. As I told my (German) wife, when the Germans get positive, it's time for the Polish and French to watch out.

    I was rewarded with a well deserved tounge lashing in German. German has to be the best language for getting angry in. Maybe that's partially why Nazis still make good enemies for stories/games/etc.

    Still, Spiegel has been a terribly biased critic of all things US/Bush for a few years now, and it's amazing that that would get published. My father in law, as I said, read the article and was suprised himself - basically said "so THAT is what you did in Ramadi this past year!"

    That said, Tal Afar was Tal Afar, Ramadi is Ramadi, but the country is a whole lot bigger and more complex than two (or three, or four) cities. At least someone is acknowledging that the US Army, four years later, has actually gotten pretty good at tactical/local COIN.
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    Council Member Rob Thornton's Avatar
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    Default Great point

    Cav Guy,
    A great point:
    That said, Tal Afar was Tal Afar, Ramadi is Ramadi, but the country is a whole lot bigger and more complex than two (or three, or four) cities. At least someone is acknowledging that the US Army, four years later, has actually gotten pretty good at tactical/local COIN.
    I'd even say we might being doing better. I believe we are seeing operational success in pursuing the strategy (as LTC Kilcullen pitched it) of securing the population, isolating the AIF, and hard wiring the social infrastructure of those areas secured from allowing the AIF to regain their influence.

    Success (and and conversely - failures) provide their own IO themes. In this case, tactical successes have been translated some into operational successes and by doing so, are providing the enablers for strategic success - or social/political/economic success.

    I believe the world is starting to pick up on this, and they are thinking/writing about it. Despite tradgedies like those in Sinjar, the initiative is with Coalition and Iraqi Forces. It seems to building very quickly. I hope it builds sufficiently (so it is undeniable by the most obstinate critics) for us to repair our own political will in order to sustain and promote the success we've (both CF & ISF) worked so hard to achieve; and that the Iraqi political leadership will seize the opportunity to show some incremental progress in the political LOO.

    Hat tip on the article, as said - it speaks volumes.
    Last edited by Rob Thornton; 08-18-2007 at 05:13 PM.

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    Council Member Cavguy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rob Thornton View Post
    I'd even say we might being doing better. I believe we are seeing operational success in pursuing the strategy (as LTC Kilcullen pitched it) of securing the population, isolating the AIF, and hard wiring the social infrastructure of those areas secured from allowing the AIF to regain their influence.
    Thanks. You are right - we have developed a model that works, and can be exploited at the operational and even strategic level - hope is a powerful motivator.

    I haven't posted my article about Tal Afar (This month's ARMOR cover) here, but a concluding point was that such operations provide a model for elsewhere, using transferrable concepts.

    I'm working on a second article, the genesis provided by a retired Colonel I associate with here at Leavenworth. It's sort of a framework for successful local/tactical COIN, but I haven't wargamed how high it goes. He calls it the "Big 5" of COIN - see what you think. It basically explains what 3ACR did in TA and 1/1 AD in Ramadi. The five things listed below are not sequential but parallel - so don't get wrapped around the order:

    1) Co-opt the power brokers

    Getting some local leaders on your side is key. How you do this can vary. In TA, 3ACR used the Shia tribes. In Ramadi, we used the SAA led by Sheik Sittar. Neither were powerful when they were co-opted - both became so. (which brings its own problems later)

    2) Secure the populace where they live.

    Beat to death by Kilcullen, etc. If you can't pacify the whole area, start small and work outward where success is possible.

    3) Train, Equip, and Mentor Local Security Forces

    Obviously, working through the locals is better. Getting them to be effective and reasonably balanced is the challenge. By, with, and through local forces must be the mantra, despite the pain.....

    4) Build Infrastructure, Human and Physical.

    More than refurbishing schools, you must lay the groundwork for good governance and key utilities. What good is a new playground to the populace when they have no clean water or electricity? Making sure your infrastructure is compentent and effective is critical.

    On the other hand, getting good local government is difficult. Anyone who has been to TA recently knows how key Mayor Najim was to stabilizing that city because of his balance and negotiation skills with the local sheiks. Good police and IA leaders are also key.

    5) Create perceptions of rising expectations.

    Get a theme. The populace needs to think that you will eventually win - people will side with the winning side. Happened in TA in Ramadi when the winds changed from the terrorists and to us and ISF. Ramadi switch quickly because once momentum started the local tribes didn't want to back a loser (AQIZ). This one is hard because it demands a competent and relentless I/O program, which is hard to do.


    Chew on that and let me know what you think - Rick Everett came up with it and I'm trying to explain it .....
    Last edited by Cavguy; 08-19-2007 at 10:28 PM.
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    Default 5 good points!

    Hey Cavguy--

    Those are 5 excellent points. On building infrastructure and good governance, one of the first things is to determine what the local people want and help them get it. If they think a soccer field is the most important thing in the world, then it probably is and they have a good reason for thinking so. Regarding governance: My experience has been that most cultures do have a form of holding leaders accountable that has some relationship to the mechanism we call democracy. Taking advantage of that local mechanism is often a key to success both in building infrastructure and better governance but also in moving toward more democratic mechanisms that fall within the cultural parameters of the local people.

    Cheers

    JohnT

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