More vietnam, more Quagmire, more Calm down Calm down

Future of British Army operations in Iraq over next two years

  • Downsized to a symbolic brigade in Basra, training Iraqi Forces

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Remain about the same size, more TA in support roles, Mix of active patroling and training.

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Remain about the same size, occasional forays north to remind the US that the British are valued all

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Increased activity and size, talking over more areas and training responsibilities.

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • Be left holding the shite when the US pulls out without warning.

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • None of the above

    Votes: 0 0.0%

  • Total voters
Like most people here, I'm interested in Iraq. Not having much experience of the place, I rely on the Meeja for information. Unfortunatly, the Meeja seem to be about as reliable a astrologer when a 10 planet is introduced.

.... The administration is not willing to commit to an all-out effort to defeat the insurgents in Iraq, and is equally unwilling to reverse course and bring the troops home. Most Americans are abandoning the idea that the war can be "won." Polls are showing that they're tired of the conflict and its relentlessly mounting toll. It's hard to imagine that the population at large will be willing to sacrifice thousands of additional American lives over several more years in pursuit of goals that remain as murky as ever.
George W. Bush has no strategy, no real plan, for winning the war in Iraq. So we're stuck in a murderous quagmire without even the suggestion of an end in sight.

The administration has never been straight with the public about the war, and there's no reason to believe it will start being honest now. There is a desperate need for a serious national conversation about alternatives to the Bush approach in Iraq, which is tantamount to a permanent American military presence in that country.

The president, ensconced in a long vacation, exemplifies the vacuum of leadership on this crucial issue, which demands nothing less than the sustained attention of the wisest men and women the U.S. has to offer. They could be politicians, academics, civic or religious leaders, corporate executives - whoever. The longer they remain on the sidelines, the longer the carnage in Iraq will continue.

Contrast with Strategypage; (I used to think it was reliable.)

American troops in Iraq, and Iraqis with access to the Internet (and Western media), get confused when they see what the media reports on what is going on in Iraq, compared to what is actually going on. Take the reports of the “worsening trend” in terrorist violence in Iraq. Car bombings, al Qaeda's specialty, have fallen from a record high of 170 in April, to 151 in May to 133 in June, with less than 100 in July. In the last two years, American and Iraqi forces have killed or captured over 50,000 terrorists and anti-government forces. While most of those arrested were questioned and released, the areas that are “out of control” have been greatly reduced. While the mass media like to show video of car bombings, if you look closely you will notice that, in the background of those vids, you see a prosperous Iraq, with people going about their business. There’s a lot more business in Iraq now. The biggest problems are not terrorists, but common criminals and corrupt government officials. Thus, while al Qaeda and armed Sunni Arabs get most of the coverage, the biggest threats to Iraq’s future are hardly covered at all.
Then there's this one:
Michael Totten argues that Iraq is not Vietnam, referring to Max Cleland's criticism, "Welcome to Vietnam, Mr. President. Sorry you didn't go when you had the chance."

First, I'd like to point out the obvious. Vietnam is a metaphor for two things: a quagmire and a misplaced foreign policy. What drove us to salvage Vietnam for the West was a "domino theory." While the communist rise in neighboring countries to Vietnam might seem to justify that theory, those countries becoming communist were no threat to the U.S. or the West, except for our exercise there. Or, as Barbara Tuchman writes, Vietnam exemplifies a folly, a pursuit of policy contrary to self-interest.
In the humble opinion of the readers of this site: Where next?
Perhaps the question is best answered with a snapshot from the news in the last couple of days Bombard?

Car bomb attack on Baghdad police

A car bomb explosion in west Baghdad has killed seven people and wounded at least 16 others including US troops.
Police said the bomb blew up in front of a police patrol in the Ghazaliya district and at least three officers were among the dead.

Earlier, the US military said four American soldiers were killed in an attack on Tuesday evening near the northern oil refining town of Baiji.

Violence has intensified ahead of a deadline for drafting a constitution.

A suicide bombing in central Baghdad has killed at least three Iraqis and a US soldier.
Police say the bomber appeared to be targeting an American military patrol in Tayaran Square.

Before the area was sealed off by troops, eyewitness reports said US soldiers might be among the wounded.

Earlier, 10 Iraqi policemen and a number of civilians were killed in a spate of drive-by shootings, most of them in the capital.

Tayaran Square, which was hit at about lunchtime, lies in a busy part of Baghdad and is usually full of people waiting for buses.

Five civilian cars, a US Army vehicle and a four-wheel drive were reported damaged in the blast. At least 91 Iraqis were injured, medical sources said.

Baghdad mayor 'ousted by gunmen'

Baghdad's mayor has been sacked by the Iraqi government, in circumstances that he has described as "dangerous" and "undemocratic".
A government spokesman said Alaa al-Tamimi was fired on Monday, although he refused to elaborate further.

However, Mr Tamimi himself said 120 gunmen stormed his office and installed the provincial governor in his place.

He said tensions had broken out between him and Shia members of the provincial council in recent weeks.

"Acts like these set a very dangerous precedent for a country that wants to be free and democratic," Mr Tamimi told the Reuters news agency.
Yes, which is exactly my point: The media, even respected and reliable sources like the BBC, report the money shots.

They dont seem to report the daily life or activity on the ground outside of Badgdad. The blogs I've read seem to emphasise the corruption, and daily life.

So there is a disjunction between the mass media coverage and the intimate blog opinionsphere.


Book Reviewer
There was a pretty good post on here from Old Digger ( who I think served with Oz forces in Vietnam) that compared and contrasted the two campaigns:

For Democrats don't read "centre left political" read opportunist political opposition to the war regardless of their flavour.

This argument could go on forever ... it appears every conflict post Vietnam is `another' Vietnam.

From the first Gulf War to Bosnia, Kosovo, second Gulf War, and even our own small involvements in East Timor and the Solomons all criticised as "this will be another Vietnam" by those who oppose their or another other country's involvement.

However to suggest Iraq is another Vietnam is a false analogy.

Vietnam was essentially a civil war between the two parts of a partitioned state; Iraq is more a case of tribalism asserting itself after decades of suppression, more Balkan than Vietnam. There are very few parallels and the political strategic situations are dramatically different.

In Iraq one tribal group, the Sunni who profited under Saddam, have continued to support the `insurgents' who have been most successful attacking US forces. The city of Fallujah provided many of these `fighters' with a secure base from which they could launch their daily attacks.

The Sunni were the privileged class under Saddam Hussein and they don't want to let go of the BMWs, the mansions and the other perks.

However they don't have the sanctuaries that afforded easy shelter and protection for the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese. No Cambodia. No Laos. And although Iraq's borders are long and porous, not even Iran among its neighbors wants to be caught providing sanctuary for these people.

So back to Vietnam ...

Vietnam became a `quagmire' essentially because North Vietnam was supported by China and the Soviet Union.

That is not the case in Iraq, not withstanding the fact that a few countries are sympathetic to some of the groups opposing the coalition.

The Americans fought in Vietnam with `one arm tied behind their back' in that they did not send troops into North Vietnam however they have the freedom to operate across the whole length and breadth of Iraq.

In Vietnam the US operated from large and small bases surrounded by a VC infiltrated population, in Iraq it is the enemy who is surrounded.

Johnson presided over a war in which he could not attack the North, because of the fear China would become involved as they did in Korea - there are no such constraints on Bush.

One should remember how involved both China and the Soviet Union were in Vietnam.

The NVAF was supplied and flown by Russians and the impressive NV air defence was also planned and supplied by the Soviets. As well, the vast armoury of the NVA and VC was shipped directly over the border from China.

The Iraqi insurgents have no such support nor will they get it, the cold war is over, the Soviet Union no longer exists and it's a long way to push a bicycle from China.

The US stands over the whole region, watching all of Iraq's neighbours whose leaders are not likely to risk Saddam's fate to support Sadr or the Sunni insurgents.

That Iraq is a very expensive war is also not grounds for a valid comparison with Vietnam, which war isn't expensive?

Was the Falklands campaign expensive? I think so in both men and materiel, is it considered to be Thatcher's Vietnam? No!

To compare the sad excuse of a government in SVN in the 60s to the proposed model in Iraq is also disingenuous. Iraq will have an open and transparent opportunity to attempt the transition from a cobbled together colonial territory and subsequent military dictatorship to the first real multi-ethnic democracy in the Middle East apart from Israel.

If it succeeds Iraq will be a model for the region that in time will assist other Arab nations to rise out of there self imposed poverty and join the rest of the modern world.

Yes a successful transition will be backed by the US, but isn't that the case with post war Germany and Japan? Are they mere puppets of the US hegemony? No!

And the really big difference between Iraq and Vietnam – yup, still the jungle!

Though spicy pork noodles rather than mutton falafels can also stand as a point of difference!

The parallels are NOT very good.As Old Digger said there is a very evident 'Vietnam Syndrome ' thread running through US Foreign policy in the last three decades of the Twentieth Century.

Both Gulf war I and II show that it is not as strong a constraint as was previously believed by many non-US observers.

The current USFOR engagement in Iraq of around 130,000 boots on the ground is around a quarter of the number deployed into Vietnam at the height of the conflict there.

Recent very good programme featuring Robert Macnamara, who was Sec of State in both the Kennedy and LBJ administrations. The KEY lesson he took from meeting former enemy commanders in Vietnam in the 1990's is
- the US failed from the outset to understand how their intervention was perceived by the Vietnamese. Not as liberation from a vicious Communist regime, but as just another foreign invasion to be repelled at any cost.

Le Chevre
This article is fine, but it doesn't really show us what exactly is happening, and which view is actually correct.

The trust placed in official reporting was badly tarnished by the stories and spin released by the army during Vietnam: Factually, they were right: Hundred, Thousands of Vietcong were being killed and entire 'divisions' annihilated. However, they missed the point: It wasn’t the people killed in the mountains or paddy fields, but the instincts and reactions of an entire culture that was the real battlefield.

Some parts of the media were reporting on a different war to the one portrayed in the briefing rooms, and this view gradually gained credence as the optimistic deadlines came and passed.

Now, we have a official press line that states that everything is improving and in the near future we’ll be handing over most of the security to Iraqi Forces.

We’ve a media line that reports a constant stream of car bombs and attacks in the Sunni triangle, as if the whole country is ablaze.

We’ve a blogosphere that, as expected, gives some conflicting reports, but reports the day to day crackle of existence in a tribal society.

We’ve damm all credible balanced Iraqi commentary: Salem Pax where are you?.. Salem… Pax….

You'll hear One_of_the_Strange banging on quite a lot about "The Information Battlespace" quite a lot, because he's very clever and all that.

This is the arena the US is clearly losing in, for a variety of reasons (institutionalised Liberalism and the unswerving Narrative that "Iraq" is a Bad Thing are the primary ones). Whether or not they could win it at all is debatable, but the impression is that they aren't really trying.

Politicians and their spin-doctors are fighting in the Information Battlespace, when military input is needed just as badly (then again, do thrusting military types see media ops as a good career move?).

I'd go unconventional; covertly sanctioned blogs that intimately but irreverently put out the good news; subtle and deliberate manipulation of the Media; dedicated and protracted tactical and strategic targeting of the information battlespace and so on.

You need to be ruthless and resolute, but it could be done. And by showing that the Coalition isn't just driving around strafing civilians a la The Indy (etc) but that this role has been taken over be the Jihadists then we might start getting somewhere.

Any thoughts?

ITs kinda like guerilla marketing.

The advantages are that people interact because there is entertainment or it tickles their fancy.

However, the second that a 'independant' source is revealed as a sponsored site, then the credibility of similar sites and sources also drops.

I gather that the US Army recently demanded that all military personell writing a blog report it to their CO, this might be a start of what you say.

Again, the value of the alternative media is that it's independant. If you try to direct it, you lose its main asset.

All one can do is ensure the good news is there to be reported.

The information battlespace is a interesting idea, and very suited to the current style of operations other than war.

However, I might suggest that it allows the military to interfere with media reporting of its activites.

I'd be wary about that: The media is one of the pillars of our society and culture. Allowing other branchs to create and define the media in their own image subverts its power to help citizens decide their own mind: It is for citizens to decide what they're happy with, not the army or government to decide what the citizens should be happy about.

If you allow the army to use infowar in their physical battlespace, then do you allow them to use infowar in the home space as well?

If you look at Germany during WW1. The military had complete control of the press and ensured that only a line favourable to their intrests was published. That line was exposed as false by defeat, some people felt cheated, decieved by the govenment. others felt that ultimate victory had been stolen from an unbeated Glorious German Army. The two forces assisted the destabilisation of the Weimar Republic.

Look at the USarmy after Vietnam: Discredited, untrusted and morale at an all time low. Similar story: Even now, people still argue that the US could have won if it wasn't for the stab in the back.
I'd be wary about that: The media is one of the pillars of our society and culture.
You see, the thing is, I don't personally see the Mainstream Media as a pillar of our society and culture. At all. Whatsoever. I see it as a hopelessly left-of-centre, narcissistic, self-regarding, smug and unaccountable pain in the arse. Anybody see BBC's Question Time's "A Question of Security?" I rest my case.

The Narrative has been decided; "Iraq" is bad. Period. The US army could bring first-class health care, education, peace, democracy and Disneyland to Iraq but 85% of the MSM wouldn't report it out of a combination of caprice and plain arrogance.

Ergo, in the Information Battlespace, some elements of the Media must be considered actively hostile and are thus totally legitimate "targets" for Disinformation and Psychological Warfare operations. Others can be seen as neutral, and hearts and mind operations conducted. The friendlies must be courted and treated like any other ally.

I know my view is radical. Then again, you don't win asymmetrical warfare by playing by Marquess of Queensbury rules.

Manipulation of the news was tried in NI. Anything on which a 'good slant' could be put had to be passed to HQ NI where the renegade civvy PR guy, whose name escapes me, rewrote it and pushed it out. Not necessarily invented - axcept possibly Kincora boys home stuff - but slanted to attack republican morale or cheer-up the Loyalists. Sort of Lord Haw Haw. Didn't work because the Nationalist propoganda system was better and the Loyalists were too thick to do anything beyond the feel good bit.
It works both ways - remember the staged footage of Saddam's statue being pulled down? The crowd scene was largely staged and the media played along because it looked good.

HMG are strangely reticent to correct media inaccuracies that play to their benefit.
I shall now bang on about the "Information Battlespace" some more (thanks V.) ... I see the real battlefield is inside the minds of what can be broadly described as the non-western world. Sure, US popular opinion is important but I don't see it crumbling now like it did in Vietnam. Europe will bitch and moan but Europeans, by and large, aren't going to go to Iraq to kill Americans. (There are always going to be a few nutters though but I wouldn't class them as mainstream integrated Europeans - ooh, a little bit of politics ...).

The real target for Coalition info ops should be everyone else. The people who can either support us or work against us in non-military yet terribly effective ways. At the moment the US message to them seems to be "F@ck off !" - or perhaps "Bring it on !"

Vietnam is a useful example here - the US won the military war. They consistently wiped out the VC and NVA, by any combat power related metric you choose they were streets ahead. And yet the real war was inside the minds of the Vietnamese. Ultimately they were not prepared to die for the corrupt US backed and imposed regime, while the VC/NVA were prepared to die for their cause (voluntarily or not).

Most of what we see in the media never reaches our target audience and when they do see it they get it alongside foreign media (eg Al-Jazeera) so it's context is different. And it's not necessarily more anti-US. A good example is Al-Jazeera's take on the car bombing that killed so many children. They showed some horribly graphic images and spared no punches in describing the sort of people who committed such acts. However, placed alongside such images as the little girl covered in blood who was the only survivor of her family shot at yet another badly planned US checkpoint they lose their impact somewhat and make the observer think that both parties are morally equivalent. Placed against that background some US spokesman banging on about repainting a school comes across as trite and irrelevant.

The lack of casualty reporting is another good example - most uninvolved observers see that as evidence that the US does not care about the locals. The frequent use of "raghead" and other terms in the US blogosphere does little to convince the undecided that the US has Iraqi's best interests at heart.
Anyway, Part II of this guff ...

The info ops thing I went on about above is important but ultimately will do little to affect the eventual outcome in Iraq. It's importance lies in how other countries perceive and act towards the US in the future. The Law of Unintended Consequences and all that.

I see the situation in Iraq as already settled. The Shia are busy establishing an Iranian style Sharia law state where they live. The Kurds are moving towards an independent Kurdistan. The only variable is where the Sunni end up, as part of the mainly Shia area or on their own. If the US tries to stop either movement then all of a sudden all those peaceful areas of Iraq won't be peaceful any more. The myth of a democratic Iraq is just that, a myth. The locals go along with it now as they get benefits from it and the sooner the US leaves the sooner they can do what they really want. Iraq was nailed together by outsiders, held together by a dictator and now it's falling apart. The only variable is how messy the split is.
Why did they pissed off when the Marine wrapped his SH's head in a stars and stripes then?

Hell, The US could'nt organise a piss-up in a Bagdad brewery at that stage, let alone stage a spontanous mass demonstration.

But still, it does remind me of the marine raising the flag on Iwo Jima: So good they did it twice.

The Media write and publish what they think people will read. That does not mean it evil, ineffectual or malign.

Taking a left wing slant on affairs does not mean they are wrong, and its hardly the responsibilty of any Army to correct domestic opinion. Its the Politicans and governments job.

By all means, conduct propganda campaigns, in hostile areas, but don't interfere with democracy:

Tell me, if the armed forces of her royal highness(?Hey I'm Irish. the only way I know to address a queen is -"you! <<Shirtlifter>>!" anyway)
the queen had the power to do shut this site or monitor its users, would you or I be happy to frequent the NAAFI? (recent tread: 'Mong For Sale?')

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