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Thread: Macgregor's latest shot at the matrix: "Sheikhs For Sale"

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    Default Macgregor's latest shot at the matrix: "Sheikhs For Sale"

    Here is an oped by Doug Macgregor that is currently running in "Defense News."

    January 28, 2008

    Sheikhs for Sale - U.S. Cash Diplomacy in Iraq Will Fail in the End

    Of the many factors contributing to the reduction of U.S. casualties in Iraq, none has been more critical than the decision by the generals in Baghdad to pay more than 80,000 of Iraq's Sunni Arab insurgents a quarter of a billion dollars a year not to shoot at U.S. forces.

    It's not the first time that a foreign army in the Middle East has bought off troublesome Arab sheikhs and their cohorts with cash. The British used gold to sedate tribal enemies from the Khyber Pass to the Nile delta while they extracted billions from their colonies. However, it is the first time in American history that buying off the enemy has been presented to the American people as evidence for progress in a war or good generalship.......
    Last edited by Jedburgh; 01-28-2008 at 03:37 PM. Reason: Added link, edited content.

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    Council Member Cavguy's Avatar
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    It still doesn't change the fact that co-opting tribes is not, and was never, a long term solution or meant to be. It was meant to provide the temporary stability required to accomplish ANY forward movement - which was impossible with even the "surge" troop levels. If Iraq doesn't resolve its larger issues, the Awakening movements are meaningless and perhaps counterproductive. However, if we hadn't encouragedthe Awakening movements, Iraqi would likely be far deeper into a civil war now than a year ago.

    Some (like Ralph Peters) argue that's a good thing. Civil Wars are cleansing, if bloody, and often settle issues. Others point out that few Civil Wars end as well as the American one. However, the national strategy as dictated by the president involves creating a unified Iraq, and estabishing some form of local security and stability is a necessary first step that has reduced the tensions and pull back from the spectre of an all-out civil war. Without an addtional 200,000 trops, the only way to do that is to co-opt local forces into securing themselves.

    Again, I call for a practical alternative to what we should have done to arrest the downward spiral in Iraq during 2006, given no change in strategic guidance.

    I also caution against the simplification and lie that only money is behind the Awakening, it's simply a dispicable distortion and simplifiction, as much as the "soldiers on FOBs eating ice cream while Iraq burns" is.
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    Council Member J Wolfsberger's Avatar
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    I'd like to know how Colonel Macgregor thinks we should have brought them over? "Join us or die?" "Pretty please?"

    We pay our troops and, except for left wingers, nobody believes they're only fighting for the money. We're providing the sheikhs economic support, and in turn they're supporting us. (BTW, that economic support is not the only thing that brought them over.)

    In Macgregor's own words: "With millions of dollars in hand, the Sheikhs could reward the loyalty of their armed supporters, determine who would hold office, staff the police and reassert their control over Anbar’s towns and villages with their own arbitrary justice system." And this is bad ... how? And notice the use of "arbitrary." I suspect the use of "traditional" may have been more accurate and less ideological.

    Let's add this: "... tribal identity is a dangerous step backward on the road to modernity and cash payments now make crushing tribalism later impossible for whatever regime rules in Baghdad. In Western Europe the process of eradicating tribalism took centuries and tribalism’s last great European bastion did not capitulate to the forces of modernization until well into the 18th Century." So his complaint is this interferes with "nation building?"

    This strikes me as nothing more than another swipe at Bush masquerading as serious analysis.
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    Council Member davidbfpo's Avatar
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    Default Spending at home too

    The UK has invested and paid huge sums at home, in Northern Ireland during 'The Troubles'. Some of the money has been paid to community groups, a number of which developed into the political fronts for paramilitary groups - noably on the Loyalist side. Others have commented on the huge sums spent in Northern Ireland compared to the mainland UK. Any visitor to West Belfast or Londonderry over the years would comment on the changes.

    Now tell me this type of spending in troublesome areas does not occur in the USA.

    davidbfpo

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    Council Member Danny's Avatar
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    Default Tiresome Populist Narratives

    I tire of these populist narratives. Lt. Col. Gentile, I responded to your interesting and heart felt commentary in the IHT here:

    http://www.captainsjournal.com/2008/...raq-or-are-we/

    Where I discussed the notion of singular narratives being adequate. Further, my views on payment for concerned citizens and tribal sheikhs can be found here and here and here:

    http://www.captainsjournal.com/2007/...g-the-sheikhs/

    http://www.captainsjournal.com/2007/...nius-or-shame/

    http://www.captainsjournal.com/2007/...ategy-in-iraq/

    A quick quote:

    "Rather than an observation of the necessity for political progress, this statement follows the template of criticism set out by the left, and it has been followed with religious fervor. Note carefully what Drum charges. Rather than the seeds of violence being one thousand years of religious bigotry between Shi’a and Sunni, or recent history under Saddam’s rule, or the temptations of oil revenue in a land that has not ever seen the largesse of its natural resources due to corruption, the cause is said to be the “concerned local citizens” groups, i.e., U.S. strategy.

    This outlandish claim betrays the presuppositions behind it - specifically, that it would be somehow better to continue the fighting than to, as they charge, buy peace with money. But for the hundreds of thousands of disaffected Sunni workers who have no means to support their families, this criticism is impotent and offers no alternative to working for the insurgency to feed their children. It ignores basic daily needs, and thus is a barren and unworkable view when considering the human condition.

    The strategy all along has been one of ground-up counterinsurgency. The statements by military leadership in Iraq, far from hiding the fact that political progress must follow on the heels of military progress, show not only a knowledge of this fact, but demonstrate that it is this way by design. The intent from the beginning has been one of providing the window of opportunity for political reconciliation, at least insofar as the provision of basic human needs is concerned. In this way, command in Iraq has attacked the enemy’s strategy, and has done so with remarkable success."

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    Quote Originally Posted by Danny View Post
    But for the hundreds of thousands of disaffected Sunni workers who have no means to support their families,
    If by your own admission the program is a socialist make work project, isn't it fair to point out that socialist make work programs never work? Isn't if fair to point out that when we stop the payments, and they will stop, the people will still have no alternatives and in fact will have lost whatever capitalistic skills they may have had? Don't we need to have a little good old fashioned Reagan economic common sense, even in Iraq?
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    Council Member Cavguy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rank amateur View Post
    If by your own admission the program is a socialist make work project, isn't it fair to point out that socialist make work programs never work? Isn't if fair to point out that when we stop the payments, and they will stop, the people will still have no alternatives and in fact will have lost whatever capitalistic skills they may have had? Don't we need to have a little good old fashioned Reagan economic common sense, even in Iraq?
    Reaganist models of economics work much better in societies with low corruption, stability, and rule of law. Trust me, the Arabs don't lack entrepreneurial skills. They do lack a market - i.e. a populace with the means to buy the goods. Without that means, the entrepreneurs can't expand/hire/etc.

    Imagine every factory worker and civil servant in America being fired at the same time, and the effect on the economy. That's what happened in Iraq. In its place we told the "free market" to fix it, and generate new jobs. Also you should be aware that every Iraqi was on the equivalent of "food stamps" for daily needs. An entire generation under the age of 16 knows nothing but food handouts.

    Like the tribal security, state supported jobs programs are not a long term fix, but perhaps a necessary one to getting an economy going. What investor would build a new factory in Iraq in 2008? Degrading infrastructure, limited power, and extortion from terrorists and gangs make Iraq and very risky proposition. There is no enforceable contract law. The free market can't fix Iraq until Iraq gets stable, and that includes giving families work, building stability, and begins to repair its critical infrastructure. Human infrastructure such as governments and courts are equally critical. The government must provide conditions for a free market to work. So in the meantime, state programs are critical.
    Last edited by Cavguy; 01-28-2008 at 07:17 PM.
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    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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    Have to admit that I do like Macgregor's ideas on military reform, but I'm starting to find some of his commentary on UW/LIC to be a bit tedious if not poorly informed. I know Ricks' "Fiasco" has some harsh words about him, and if memory serves "Cobra" also takes some shots at his "go in small" ideas.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cavguy View Post
    So in the meantime, state programs are critical.
    I know you were there, so no disrespect to you, but it's not an economic development program, it's the worst kind of welfare: open ended. It's fine as a short term measure - most short term welfare has some value - but at some point we need to ask: so what and now what?
    Quote Originally Posted by SteveMetz View Post
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rank amateur View Post
    I know you were there, so no disrespect to you, but it's not an economic development program, it's the worst kind of welfare: open ended. It's fine as a short term measure - most short term welfare has some value - but at some point we need to ask: so what and now what?
    I'd just say we're not at "some point" for quite awhile. Right now we've taken the patient from critical condition into intensive care, the life support's going to have to be on for awhile.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rank amateur View Post
    I know you were there, so no disrespect to you, but it's not an economic development program, it's the worst kind of welfare: open ended. It's fine as a short term measure - most short term welfare has some value - but at some point we need to ask: so what and now what?
    I think you may have misunderstood the point. Iraq is not a Western State with a well established social, economic and political infrastructure. I agree with what you are saying - if you were speaking of that type of state. The problem in Iraq is to provide, through whatever means, some level of subsistence while the infrastructure develops.
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    Council Member Cavguy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Blair View Post
    Have to admit that I do like Macgregor's ideas on military reform, but I'm starting to find some of his commentary on UW/LIC to be a bit tedious if not poorly informed. I know Ricks' "Fiasco" has some harsh words about him, and if memory serves "Cobra" also takes some shots at his "go in small" ideas.
    I just hate to see him head down the Hackworth/Peters path. Starting out with some really on-target stuff and get bogged down on kooky side issues and rants that alienate most people from the gold nuggets found in their writing, allowing people to dismiss their writings out of hand.

    25% of Hackworth's stuff was absolutely brilliant. 75% was craptastic ranting. After "About Face" was published he went steadily downhill as his ranting drove those originally receptive away. Same with Peters. His stuff up until "Beyond Terror" was insightful and brilliant, and he's had a few since then. (I worshipped his "Parameters" articles from the 90s) However, todayit gets so lost in the vitrolic "New York Post" op-eds that now getting people to take him seriously is a challenge.
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    Council Member Danny's Avatar
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    Default What would you like to do?

    " ... If by your own admission the program is a socialist make work project, isn't it fair to point out that socialist make work programs never work?"

    I never said that it was a socialist make-work project. Those are your words. I would think that I was working pretty hard if I was risking my life protecting my neighborhood every day and manning a checkpoint.

    Besides. What would you like to do with them? Kill them all?

    The solution was always seen to be temporary. And finally, of all of the detractors and all of the criticisms of the tactic, I have yet to see a plausible alternative proferred.

    Your objections fall on deaf ears until you can pose a realistic alternative. Have at it. Let's hear your ideas.

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    Council Member Cavguy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rank amateur View Post
    I know you were there, so no disrespect to you, but it's not an economic development program, it's the worst kind of welfare: open ended. It's fine as a short term measure - most short term welfare has some value - but at some point we need to ask: so what and now what?
    Don't get me wrong, there's a lot of small business efforts underway as well. But it doesn't solve the economy.

    And I guess I'll ask my favorite question on this thread - what's the realistic, practical alternative to fix the Iraqi economy in the short term without creating a welfare state? (i'm serious about this)

    EDIT: Didn't see Danny's response. I'm channeling him today....
    Last edited by Cavguy; 01-28-2008 at 08:05 PM.
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    Moderator Steve Blair's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cavguy View Post
    I just hate to see him head down the Hackworth/Peters path. Starting out with some really on-target stuff and get bogged down on kooky side issues and rants that alienate most people from the gold nuggets found in their writing, allowing people to dismiss their writings out of hand.

    25% of Hackworth's stuff was absolutely brilliant. 75% was craptastic ranting. After "About Face" was published he went steadily downhill as his ranting drove those originally receptive away. Same with Peters. His stuff up until "Beyond Terror" was insightful and brilliant, and he's had a few since then. (I worshipped his "Parameters" articles from the 90s) However, todayit gets so lost in the vitrolic "New York Post" op-eds that now getting people to take him seriously is a challenge.
    Agreed on all counts. Peters' early stuff was fascinating, and at least was serious enough that it got some people to think and debate it based on its merits. Now, like you say, he's really wandered down the Hackworth path.
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    Council Member Rob Thornton's Avatar
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    Default Money as a tool

    Kudos to CAVGUY and others for thinking about why, when and how you use money. We do this on a policy scale - using it as a diplomatic tool to shape our environments, to get players to see things more our way, to bring multiple regional players closer on issues which are mutually beneficial to us and them. There are many ways we do this - from FMS, to IMF and a host of other modifications - we've seen it as a strategic tool since we've been able.

    What seems to be new to us, is the idea of money (in its raw form) as a tool to achieve tactical and operational goals - be they interim or others. Maybe it just seems at odds with our military culture to use money vs. other means - I don't know - that is probably a serious question that deserves serious thought.

    However, I do see great utility in thinking about money, and how to spend it to achieve tactical and operational goals. DoD Directive 3000.5 basically says (paraphrased) where the (more) appropriate civilian agency is unable (due to conditions, or capacity?) to perform those functions & roles better suited to them, the military will assume (interim?) responsibility. This is going to create conditions where money (in its various incarnations) is handled at the tactical and operational levels to achieve tactical and operational objectives - it may have strategic effects/consequences to boot.

    The conditions that will require that probably will include - SSTR type conditions like those found in Anbar (and other places in Iraq). I like CAVGUY's analysis:
    Like the tribal security, state supported jobs programs are not a long term fix, but perhaps a necessary one to getting an economy going. What investor would build a new factory in Iraq in 2008? Degrading infrastructure, limited power, and extortion from terrorists and gangs make Iraq and very risky proposition. There is no enforceable contract law. The free market can't fix Iraq until Iraq gets stable, and that includes giving families work, building stability, and begins to repair its critical infrastructure. Human infrastructure such as governments and courts are equally critical. The government must provide conditions for a free market to work. So in the meantime, state programs are critical.
    Folks can argue about it, but one thing that was bought (that is hard to buy at any price) was time - operational, and I think strategic time. In this case I think we got what we paid for and then some.

    We've been very cognizant of its (money's) limitations, but I'm not sure we've considered its advantages - we're back to a culture issue. Its some of the same issues we have with contracting - but I'm not sure its fair to lump them in the same category. In theory - you are purchasing something with both - but with a contract, you get exactly what you pay for (although you might get less, or adverse consequences) - there is little potential for any greater return. However, if you can invest in people - as CAVGUY lays out, you may get a much better return (like investing, if you read the conditions wrong, you could see that money used against you, or no return on your investment - i.e. hollow) - this is not a fire and forget sort of transaction - but should be managed.

    This is something I think we're going to have to get comfortable with. This is not exactly the same thing I think as SOF and/or CIA teams funding Northern Alliance chieftains. I have a buddy on a PRT who took suitcases full of money to do business all over Eastern Iraq - it was just the way business was done. He primarily did contracting type transactions - but those monies went into more then just providing services and materials for projects. It created action - it paid for trucks to move, stuff to be built, calls and visits to be made, etc.-some of it inside Iraq, some of it outside of Iraq. This was also tactical level Inter-Agency type stuff with operational and strategic effects.

    I acknowledge there is both risk and difficulty in accurately attributing cause and effect relationships (both good and bad), but we have the same issues with other actions - lethal, or non-lethal. However, we still have to do our best analysis and make decisions on it, and conduct continued analysis, etc. - it is a dynamic and inter-active process.

    At certain points on the "full spectrum" line, I think using money as a tool to achieve tactical and operational objectives makes sense - we do it because we can, and because in certain circumstances constraining ourselves to purely lethal ways of achieving those objectives may only worsen the operating conditions we have to overcome.

    One of our SWC members "Stone" has some good experience as a contracting officer. I think this maybe something we're going to need more of to take advantage of money as a tactical and operational tool - certified contracting officers and NCOs - these tactical units will be the first to reach these remote places and alter the conditions where insurgency and instability have taken root. These same tactical units will also be the ones to more accurately gauge how that money is being spent, how it is impacting the local communities. These units will have to do this until conditions permit the more appropriate civilian folks in to manage it - as we've seen that is largely contingent on security - and in a environment charged with domestic politics (our own), the faster we can move to alter, modify, change the conditions to purchase more time for us or the HN to achieve its goals the more options we will find available to us. This is why it might be a good idea to bring "lawyers, guns and money"( couldn't resist) along with the other tools in our tool bag.

    Best Regards, Rob

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Everyone above bemoaning this and agreeing with

    MacGregor (who's obviously lost the bubble) is aware of the fact that we've done this for a great many years, right?

    We've paid our allies since the Philippines in the early years of the last century. We've paid people not to fight us for longer than that -- unless we wanted something they had, then we attacked 'em instead of paying.

    The only difference between what we're doing now and what we did in WW II, Korea and Viet Nam is inflation.

    And, as Cav Guy pointed out, some here are making the same mistake MacGregor made -- judging this by western standards. You have the luxury of doing that, the Iraqis do not. They will judge by their standards and what we're doing makes perfect sense to them.

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default I doubt you'll get any takers.

    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    ...
    Now tell me this type of spending in troublesome areas does not occur in the USA.

    davidbfpo
    I sure wouldn't attempt to deny that...

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    I agree with both Ken that deploying money to influence people (and to buy, or more accurately, rent, some immediate security) is hardly new, and with CavGuy that there was little realistic alternative. It was the smart response to a situation where AQI missteps, growing Sunni fear of Shiite power, and an ironic combination of both medium-term US staying power ("you can't chase us out") and long-term doubts about the US presence ("there's no pointing fighting them, they'll leave eventually, and then we'll have to face the Shiites..") all created potential alliances that money could help consolidate.

    Given that, I think that casting it in a money good vs money bad debate (which I don't think many, if any, are doing here) rather misses the key issue: how do you maximize the benefits and minimize the potential negative consequences?

    In Iraq, the benefits are further weakening AQI, reducing US and GoI casualties, enhancing security (and hence the potential for economic development) in Sunni areas, and perhaps using this as a basis for constructing local governance networks.

    The downside is that it alarms the Shi'ites and Kurds, can be used by Iran to strengthen its local influence ("Look! They're arming Ba'thists!") strengthens groups that sometimes/often have both murky pasts and fairly extensive involvement in criminal networks, potentially undermines the rule of law and established institutional channels of authority (where these groups emerge as independent power centres), is potentially vulnerable to considerable corruption and diversion of funds, and can deter local investment (where armed groups start using their power and freedom of action to engage in parasitic business practices).

    All of this, in turn, links to a complex set of issues--how payroll is handled, the extent to which the central government will authorize/regularize these groups, command and control, monitoring of intimidation/extortion/criminality, whether US forces on the ground have a firm grasp of the tribal/clan/family/political/economic dynamics at work, how this combined with a political strategy to move Iraq forward on the "big issues" (governance reform, inclusion, constitutional evolution, fiscal redistribution, etc).

    So much of this depends on the nitty-gritty of who is doing what, how, where, and when that I certainly don't have any good answers (or even any grasp of how carefully its all being thought through, in a strategic sense).

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    In response to a number of people above, the problem is welfare economics 101. If you keep sending people a check until the find a job, they don't look for work. If you pay sheiks until they create a nice stable country, they won't create a nice stable country.

    Undoubtedly, we've made a bad situation slightly less worse, but when the best arguments intelligent people can make in favour is "We had no other choice," and "the government wastes money at home too," I think you need to concede that it's not exactly the equivalent of raising the stars and stripes atop Mount Suribachi.

    Quote Originally Posted by Rex Brynen View Post
    (or even any grasp of how carefully its all being thought through, in a strategic sense).
    It's nice to know that I'm not the only one.
    Last edited by Rank amateur; 01-28-2008 at 11:32 PM.
    Quote Originally Posted by SteveMetz View Post
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