Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Why we lost in Iraq

Edward N. Luttwak explains why we cannot possibly "win" in Iraq:
Perfectly ordinary regular armed forces, with no counterinsurgency doctrine or training whatever, have in the past regularly defeated insurgents, by using a number of well-proven methods. It is enough to consider these methods to see why the armed forces of the United States or of any other democratic country cannot possibly use them. ...

[W]henever insurgents are believed to be present in a village, small town, or distinct city district—a very common occurrence in Iraq at present, as in other insurgency situations—the local notables can be compelled to surrender them to the authorities, under the threat of escalating punishments, all the way to mass executions. ...

[The Roman Empire] relied on deterrence, which was periodically reinforced by exemplary punishments. Most inhabitants of the empire never rebelled after their initial conquest. A few tribes and nations had to be reconquered after trying and failing to overthrow Roman rule. A few simply refused to become obedient, and so they were killed off: “They make a wasteland and call it peace” was the bitter complaint of a Scottish chieftain (as reported by Tacitus).

Terrible reprisals to deter any form of resistance were standard operating procedure for the German armed forces in the Second World War, and very effective they were in containing resistance with very few troops. ...

Occupiers can thus be successful without need of any specialized counterinsurgency methods or tactics if they are willing to out-terrorize the insurgents, so that the fear of reprisals outweighs the desire to help the insurgents or their threats. ...

[T]he ordinary administrative functions of government can also be employed against the insurgents, less compellingly perhaps but without need of violence... [but] the United States has preferred both in Vietnam long ago and now in Iraq to leave government to the locals. ...

All its best methods, all its clever tactics, all the treasure and blood that the United States has been willing to expend, cannot overcome the crippling ambivalence of occupiers who refuse to govern, and their principled and inevitable refusal to out-terrorize the insurgents, the necessary and sufficient condition of a tranquil occupation.
Tim Kreider explains Why we "can't" get out:
But there’s another, more important reason the Democrats aren’t going to yank the troops out of there anytime soon, which is that we can't. The whole point of the invasion was to get the oil. The world runs on oil, see. And the problem is, the oil is running out. World leaders understand this—I’m sure Mr. Cheney has explained it to George--and the major players are now scrambling to position themselves for what promises to be an ugly and savage every-man-for-himself-type brawl over the dwindling energy resources as industrial civilization implodes. The Russians have enough oil and natural gas to maintain their current stylish standard of living for another thousand years. Don’t you worry about the Russians. The wily Chinese are forging better alliances in Asia and Africa than we’ve ever had, and are also whistling and looking innocent while building a modern army that is probably not exclusively for rescuing stranded hikers. Our main thing these days, of course, America's equivalent of Belgian ale or those big cigars they make in Andorra, is having the most terrible military machine in the history of the world. So our best play is to use that to try to take over the Middle East, where there is lots and lots of oil, but, inconveneintly, everybody hates our guts. We (along with the British) have secured the contracts to Iraq’s oil (previously held by the Russians and French—ha ha, suckers!), but if the flimsy little government we’ve propped up there collapses later on in the same afternoon we pull out, only to be replaced by some batshit fervid-eyed mullah crying Death to the Great Satan, then it’s like it was all for nothing. And the thing is, we kind of have to have the oil. We really need it. Seriously. We wouldn’t even have invaded if we didn’t need it so bad. Like, okay, just listen: today, for example, we have to get home from work, which in rush hour traffic takes like an hour and a half, and pick up the kids from lacrosse practice and cello lessons, and stop off at Pizza Hut on the way, and oh right also get the fucking cat back from the vet’s. So I mean you see how it is. That’s like five gallons right there, and that shit is not free. Just please let us have all the oil and we’ll go home, okay? Deal?


  1. I think Kreider is being rather tongue-in-cheek.

  2. I don't think so. Even he were, he's still 100% spot on.

    Few Democrats and not a single Democratic presidential candidate is calling for a withdrawal of all our troops (only "combat" troops) nor dismantling or turning over to the Iraqi government our rather large military bases there.

    Either the Democratic leadership is consumed with love and affection for the Iraqi people and want to stay in touch, or we want a platform to be able to secure the oil.

    My prediction: The Kucinich amendment stripping the requirement to plundering Iraqi oil as a condition of withdrawal either never makes it to a vote or loses handily.

  3. Ya think?

    I know it's rather harshly cynical, but any halfway competent administration acting under realist theory would have focused its efforts on securing the oil fields in southern Iraq and Kurdistan. Partitioning would work wonders were that the goal.

    Unfortunately, we got a president consumed with how he is perceived and some sort of perverted quixotic idealism.


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