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Thread: What is the "Surge?"

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    Default What is the "Surge?"

    I've been reading some politics lately (yes, that's my first mistake!) and it seems apparent to me that there is a huge difference in what people of different political stripes think is the "surge." This definitional difference seems to be at the heart of disagreements over whether it has "worked" or not. Those disagreements go on to buttress basic policy differences.

    So, to the professionals here, many of which I'm sure were either involved in planning and/or executing the "surge," what does it mean to you? Is there a commonly-accepted definition? I've always considered it much more than the simple addition of more forces but have never been completely sure myself what is "surge" and what is not. Is the surge something the military should provide a precise definition for (assuming there isn't one already that I've somehow missed)? Am I an idiot for asking these probably loaded questions in this forum?

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    Council Member Cavguy's Avatar
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    Interestingly, the article COL MacFarland and I wrote has become ground zero for the debate over recent comments by McCain/Obama campaigns.

    Not where I like to be as a military officer - having our work being quoted in the middle of a political squabble over terms.

    <sigh>

    My blog post in February (well before the current hubub) amplifying it included this:

    Likewise, the major actions that enabled the “Awakening” pre-date the execution of the surge, publication of FM 3-24, and the arrival of General Petraeus to Iraq. Attributing the success in Ramadi to the “surge” would be erroneous. However, the change to population centric tactics, patrol bases, and local security alliances that the Ready First and some other units had used in 2006 were systemically spread and adapted to local conditions throughout Iraq under the leadership of General Petraeus and General Odierno. The additional forces in the surge coupled with new tactics and doctrine enabled the transformation of Baghdad and several other provinces. The actions of the Ready First in Ramadi and 3d Armored Cavalry in Tal Afar were validation and prototypes for the change in tactics that accompanied the surge, and validated the principles that now embody FM 3-24.

    I would offer that perhaps people are talking past each other - two events are being discussed - the "surge" as defined as the addition of extra BCT's to Iraq (announced Jan 07, and used in the example above), and apparently a definition of the "surge" that was the shift to better COIN tactics (pop security, COPs, nested lines of operations) that can be reasonably described as beginning somewhere in 2005, and were standardized country-wide in 2007 with GEN P/GEN O. The above quote specifically refers to the first definition. I can handle the second, but it probably is confusing. I would describe it as "better operations and tactics through organizational learning."

    As far as the Awakening, the article has the dates of when things happened - I'll let others hash on its relation to the "surge" depending on which version of the above you accept. SEN McCain (plus SENs Snowe, Liebermann, and Graham) visitied us in Dec 06 and got a full brief from COL MacFarland on the emerging turnaround. I can see how McCain might have included this in his definition of the "surge", because it directly played into the political debate over whether success was possible in Iraq - and the choice between the Baker/Hamilton plan and the Kaplan/Keane "surge" that was all the rage in the media.

    As a personal opinion, I doubt that we would have had the flexibility to break Baghdad's "cycle of violence" without the addition of extra troops, combined with a coherent and synchronized operational plan based off of organizational learning. The Awakening probably would have occurred in Anbar regardless, but I doubt it could have spread into the "Sons of Iraq" movement without the addition of troops to mitigate the sectarian cycle of violence combined with evolved COIN practices (the above plus things like gated communities in B'Dad).

    That's as far as I'm willing to wade into this one. All personal opinions above. I am endorsing neither side's account/interpretation, only responding to some commentator/blogger's use of our article for political hay that I have seen.
    Last edited by Cavguy; 07-25-2008 at 05:50 AM.
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    If memory serves me correctly, the decision to send the extra troops was tied in with the decision to re-look at the Iraq Joint Campaign Plan and the decision to send Gen Petreaus. While the "surge" is usually assocated with extra troops, it also featured additional State Department resources (ePRTs and an embassy crew that was was pretty much the DoS "A-Team" headed by Amb Crocker).
    While this isn't any official view, I believe that the surge, in all its parts, played a decisive role in the Anbar Awakening because it sent the signal that we (the coalition) were going to be around for awhile. This gave the tribal leadership the confidence that they could deal with us and not be left out to dry. Prior to the surge, the key strategy was to turn the war over to the Iraqis as fast as possible. That is still a part, but the new strategy emphasized securing key portions of the population first.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Entropy View Post
    This definitional difference seems to be at the heart of disagreements over whether it has "worked" or not. Those disagreements go on to buttress basic policy differences.
    I think you got it backwards. Politicians start from a position and then seek ways justify the position.

    Quote Originally Posted by Entropy View Post
    Is the surge something the military should provide a precise definition for (assuming there isn't one already that I've somehow missed)?
    No. The positions have been staked out. All candidates will shift this way and that, but none will shift too far from where their base of support wants them to go. If the military were to attempt to clarify the definition, it would immediately be spun by both sides to rationalize some way that it bolsters their positions, making the military the unwitting tool for political nonsense (or is that a redundant term?). When objective facts are irrelevant to the outcome of an argument, it is pointless to inject them into it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Schmedlap View Post
    I think you got it backwards. Politicians start from a position and then seek ways justify the position.
    So do "bases." Surge has become one of those words like guns, abortion, etc. upon which no intelligent conversation is possible, because contrasting emotions have been attached to the word, and now the bases would rather yell at each other. It's too bad because COIN is expensive and the only people who can pay for it are the voters. Nothing good can come out of taxpayers not understanding what they're paying for.

    To one side "surge" means winning: which is simplistic at best. To the other it means, obsession with Iraq, but obviously Iraq can't be completely ignored.

    Normally, "winning" and "we need to take care of ourselves first" are both pretty popular with voters. Probably why the politicians aren't budging.

    If I were running the Obama campaign I'd be trying to shift the left's meaning of surge from "It's not worth the causalities" - which is losing relevance - to "why does McCain want to rebuild Iraq while bridges are falling in America, and people are losing their homes." Selfish pocketbook issues swing voters, and it ties in with the meme that "four more years" will mess up the economy and the whole Katrina thing. Then again, they may have thought of that and it tested poorly in focus groups. (This spin doctor thing is trickier than it looks.)
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    Are you implying that many voters hold views on issues that are ignorant or overly emotional and that politicians exploit that ignorance and excessive emoting by staking out positions that appeal to the lowest common denominator in order to win elections, rather than staking out positions that would be best for the country?

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    Council Member Wildcat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Schmedlap View Post
    Are you implying that many voters hold views on issues that are ignorant or overly emotional and that politicians exploit that ignorance and excessive emoting by staking out positions that appeal to the lowest common denominator in order to win elections, rather than staking out positions that would be best for the country?
    Stop the presses!

    I agree with Rank Amateur that the Surge has become a hot-button issue that provokes some pretty heated responses from both sides of the issue. Most voter polls I've seen have phrased the question very simplistically: "Do you think the Surge has been a success?" Well, by what metric do we gauge success? Overall success in Iraq would be a stable, self-sufficient state with no great need of Coalition forces for security. But the Surge's aims, to me, seem more restrained: establishing security, so that political reconciliation may follow. That would be the watered down version. You can't have the latter before the former, in my opinion. And that is what I consider the Surge to be: not just an escalation of troops, or better operations through organizational learning, but mainly the stated aim that security be established before any other strategic objectives can be accomplished. In other words, more troops and better tactics are just the nuts and bolts of the Surge.

    Now, I'm not a professional and I don't have any time in country, so my opinion matters little, if at all. But from what I've been seeing and hearing, we are slowly achieving that goal of establishing security. It's too early to call the Surge a success. I think it is succeeding. While I mentioned that its goal (establishing security) is narrower than the overall goal of turning Iraq into a healthy state, the Surge is, by necessity, tied to that larger goal. So we won't really be able to call it a success until Iraq itself is a success.

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    Council Member MikeF's Avatar
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    Enthropy-
    Excellent timing. We just had a thorough discussion on this in class (All services and SF/Seals represented). Many of us served as ground commanders throughout Iraq from late 2006 to summer of 2007.

    Situation: Years of frequent policy shifts(Saddam, Interim IZ Gov’t, Civil War, Islamic State of Iraq) and the introduction of partisan forces and the evolution of radical Islamist Jihad (suicide bomber) deteriorated the social fabric of the Iraqi (self, family, tribe, religion, and state) leaving an acephalous society- confusion, lack of self-identity, loss of hope. The insertion of additional combat troops and COIN strategy colliding with internal Iraqi actions led to the perfect storm of “The Surge.”

    First, my personal, emotional, and categorical answer- Combined with other components listed below, the decisive point of “The Surge” was Airborne, Strykers, Cavalry, and Marine units moving deep into denied areas taking the fight to the enemy. This action took away the enemy’s information advantage (terrorize the terrorist/denying safehaven). The increase in kinetics (facilitated by the AF, but triggered by the grunt) allowed us to control these areas. The psychological impact on the Sunni populace was exponential. After years of instability, the populace believed that we could secure them. Finally, we broke the enemy’s will to fight, and they turned away from AQI and began providing actionable intelligence.

    Other significant components of the Surge:
    1. Anbar Awakening.
    2. AQI overplaying hand with increased civilian casualties.
    3. Sadr ceasefire.
    4. Additional troops to secure Baghdad.
    5. Implementation of COIN strategy.
    6. Patraeus decision to sequence operations (enemy based): a. AQI, b. Badr Corps, c. JAM
    7. Patraeus decision to sequence operations against AQI (terrain based): a. Baghdad, b. outer belts, c. Mosul.
    8. Crocker’s continued pressure on Maliki to lead.
    9. Maliki’s decision to lead.
    10. Maliki taking the fight to Basra, Sadr City, Mosul, Diyala(?)

    Now, the challenge is how to put humpty dumpty back together again.

    I probably missed a few components, but it’s a start. I look forward to hearing others views, feedback, and additions.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MikeF View Post
    Other significant components of the Surge:
    1. Anbar Awakening.
    2. AQI overplaying hand with increased civilian casualties.
    3. Sadr ceasefire.
    4. Additional troops to secure Baghdad.
    5. Implementation of COIN strategy.
    6. Patraeus decision to sequence operations (enemy based): a. AQI, b. Badr Corps, c. JAM
    7. Patraeus decision to sequence operations against AQI (terrain based): a. Baghdad, b. outer belts, c. Mosul.
    8. Crocker’s continued pressure on Maliki to lead.
    9. Maliki’s decision to lead.
    10. Maliki taking the fight to Basra, Sadr City, Mosul, Diyala(?)

    Now, the challenge is how to put humpty dumpty back together again.

    I probably missed a few components, but it’s a start. I look forward to hearing others views, feedback, and additions.
    Mike, great work. How critical (or not) are the Sons of Iraq, do you think? I'm assuming you'd place them under #1, although that has thankfully trickled beyond Anbar, to a pretty good degree of success, from what I've heard.

    Without question, it is my observation one of the most critical elements was Petraeus coming in and cleaning out the FOBs and getting the line units on the streets and in the neighborhoods. He employed this wildly successful strategy in Mosul in '03 and it was an absolutely blessing when he applied it to the entire theater. It has been great tactically and for also for morale.
    Sir, what the hell are we doing?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Schmedlap View Post
    Are you implying that many voters hold views on issues that are ignorant or overly emotional and that politicians exploit that ignorance and excessive emoting by staking out positions that appeal to the lowest common denominator in order to win elections, rather than staking out positions that would be best for the country?

    And people like me get paid big bucks to help them.

    I've often wounded about the effect on the military and military culture. If Republicans were saying, "failed to plan for stability operations" would we have adopted better tactics and a population centric strategy sooner?
    Quote Originally Posted by SteveMetz View Post
    Sometimes it takes someone without deep experience to think creatively.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MikeF View Post
    I probably missed a few components,
    I think building walls around the population always "works." It's also worth noting that the objective changed from the impossible - spreading democracy across the Middle East - to the very achievable "lowering violence."

    Setting the objective is above everyone's pay grade, but if you set an impossible objective, failure is guaranteed.

    I've also longed maintained that the single most important metric - to the schlep watching TV - was US casualties. As long as few of "our guys" are getting killed, we're not too worried about much else going on in Iraq because we figure most government projects are SNAFU and if the bureaucrats didn't waste money in Iraq they'd waste it here, so we can't get too worked up about reconciliation, rebuilding or the lack there of.
    Quote Originally Posted by SteveMetz View Post
    Sometimes it takes someone without deep experience to think creatively.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MikeF View Post
    Other significant components of the Surge:
    1. Anbar Awakening.
    2. AQI overplaying hand with increased civilian casualties.
    3. Sadr ceasefire.
    4. Additional troops to secure Baghdad.
    5. Implementation of COIN strategy.
    6. Patraeus decision to sequence operations (enemy based): a. AQI, b. Badr Corps, c. JAM
    7. Patraeus decision to sequence operations against AQI (terrain based): a. Baghdad, b. outer belts, c. Mosul.
    8. Crocker’s continued pressure on Maliki to lead.
    9. Maliki’s decision to lead.
    10. Maliki taking the fight to Basra, Sadr City, Mosul, Diyala(?)
    Excellent list, although I would nuance #2 to underscore AQI's momentous mistake in finally pushing the Shiite militias and population into revenge mode with the February 2006 al-Askari (Samarra) mosque bombing.

    Up to that point it was striking that the Shiite militias had typically NOT taken engaged in sectarian revenge attacks--a rarity for a civil conflict. With the upsurge of sectarian violence (and sectarian-"unmixing") in 2006, the Sunni population and non-AQI militias suddenly learned to count (as in "ummm.. so we're 20% of the population.. the Shiites and Kurds are 80%... maybe we better rethink our security interests...")

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    Default Of schleps and surges

    from RankAmateur
    I've also longed maintained that the - to the schlep watching TV - was US casualties.
    I'd suggest that US casualties (as an abstract number) have been the single most important metric to some schleps (def. 2) producing, announcing and punditting TV (who've used them to support their own political positions - "right" and "left" - without much if any shame).

    I'd suggest that the person watching TV becomes concerned about US casualties (1) when that involves a relative, friend or neighbor; and / or (2) when US casualties do not seem to be resulting in what that person considers progress; or are (in that person's opinion) the result of a bad governmental policy decision to continue the war.

    Vietnam (if you are of that generation) was the same thing

    Iraq has been very much of a schlep (def. 1) - long and arduous, indeed; as attested by better men than I. So was Vietnam. As such, both include(d) surges, back and forth, forth and back. So, we saw and see Operation This or That (I, II and III, etc.).

    So, what is the "Surge" ? Dammed if I really know; but it probably will be expressed differently next month from this month.

    End Rant.

    --------------------------------
    BTW: weren't sure whether you meant the older meaning of "schlep" (still used by paleo-anthropolgists re: technique of bringing back the produce of the hunt):

    schlep : to drag or haul (an object); to make a tedious journey (from Yiddish shlepn; cf. German schleppen) (OED, MW)
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of...Yiddish_origin

    or, the more current slang meaning (last below)

    schlep or schlepp also shlep (shlp) Slang
    v. schlepped also shlepped, schlep·ping or schlepp·ing also shlep·ping, schleps or schlepps also shleps
    v.tr.
    To carry clumsily or with difficulty; lug: schlepped a shopping bag around town.
    v.intr.
    To move slowly or laboriously: schlepped around with the twins in a stroller.
    n.
    1. An arduous journey.
    2. A clumsy or stupid person.
    http://www.thefreedictionary.com/schlep
    Last edited by jmm99; 07-25-2008 at 09:22 PM. Reason: spell correction

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default Right you are, jmm99

    Most Americans concern for casualties is that there be an exchange or payback of some sort -- they'll tolerate casualties as long as they think something is being accomplished. Only if they see no successes at all do they get unduly perturbed. there are a few that want to make casualties an issue but they're a minority -- and most of them have no relatives or even anyone one they know in the service.

    The body bag myth is just that-- a myth. As is all the foolishness about showing the coffins arriving at Dover. Every military funeral gets plentiful local coverage, so there's no cover up. Parents with serving kids like me are mostly content with the process as it now works and see nothing to be gained other than dipwad political points from showing arrivals at Dover.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jmm99 View Post
    or, the more current slang meaning
    Definitely 2, but more affectionately.

    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    Most Americans concern for casualties is that there be an exchange or payback of some sort
    IMO, a perfectly reasonable cost benefit analysis.
    Quote Originally Posted by SteveMetz View Post
    Sometimes it takes someone without deep experience to think creatively.

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default The wisdom of crowds...

    Quote Originally Posted by Rank amateur View Post
    IMO, a perfectly reasonable cost benefit analysis.
    Though there are those who try to skew the process for political reasons, they are rarely successful.

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    Question And the most amazing thing about that is

    Quote Originally Posted by Ken White View Post
    Though there are those who try to skew the process for political reasons, they are rarely successful.


    All throughout they usually think they are being successful, only to find that they were actually falling farther from their goal the whole time
    Any man can destroy that which is around him, The rare man is he who can find beauty even in the darkest hours

    Cogitationis poenam nemo patitur

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default True

    dat..........

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    Quote Originally Posted by MikeF View Post
    The insertion of additional combat troops and COIN strategy colliding with internal Iraqi actions led to the perfect storm of “The Surge.”
    This seems a clear and concise definition of the "the Surge".

    It is important to note that the elements coalesced into the perfect storm because we as a nation decided to keep on trying, and we were wise enough to do it a little harder and smarter.
    "We fight, get beat, rise, and fight again." Gen. Nathanael Greene

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    Council Member MikeF's Avatar
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    Default Replies and additions...

    First Air Assualt,

    "How critical (or not) are the Sons of Iraq, do you think? I'm assuming you'd place them under #1, although that has thankfully trickled beyond Anbar, to a pretty good degree of success, from what I've heard."
    -jkm_101

    The list was simply a timeline of my own brain. As to the weight of the Sons of Iraq, I simply don't know. I left at the end of July 2007 before they trickled into Diyala Province. Although, from NIPR, it appears that both Sons and Daughters of Iraq are succeeding there.

    To rank amateur,

    "I think building walls around the population always "works." It's also worth noting that the objective changed from the impossible - spreading democracy across the Middle East - to the very achievable "lowering violence.'"
    Interesting tactic-I initially summarized it under secure Baghdad, but the decision to wall off Baghdad is significant.

    To Rex,

    "Excellent list, although I would nuance #2 to underscore AQI's momentous mistake in finally pushing the Shiite militias and population into revenge mode with the February 2006 al-Askari (Samarra) mosque bombing."
    Yeah, I summarily categorized AQI's violence as one. In the macro sense, a decision to kill civilians and Shia outweights time- Samarra mosque bombing, Diyala attacks, and Sadr City attacks...

    To Carl,

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Carl
    This seems a clear and concise definition of the "the Surge".

    No issues there.

    Looking foward to further submittals....Did we miss anything?

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