One Colonels Final Thoughts

#1
Interesting perspective. Definitely recognizing the need for a new approach.
From: Kraak Gregory C COL MNC-I IAG MITT Chief of Staff
Sent: Monday, October 16, 2006 1:17 PM
To: Michael Yon
Subject: FW: Thoughts III (Iraq) — the Final Chapter!

As my deployment to Iraq nears completion, I’d like to provide closure to my “Thoughts.” Typically the final chapter of a trilogy closes out all story lines and provides at least some semblance of a happy ending. Unfortunately, that will not be the case here. There are many more chapters to write in Iraq and the future is anything but certain. Amid both promising and troubling indicators, I’m not sure if the glass is half empty or half full…some days I wonder if there’s any water in the glass at all.

How did we get to this point? We acted in our national interests, I’m convinced. As I wrote previously, I don’t question the decision to remove Saddam. It was right, appropriate and just. And our strategy of pre-emption has clearly worked, as evidenced by the fact that there have been no more terrorist attacks on US soil since 9/11.

But we’ve committed some unpardonable mistakes along the way. No point in debating those – what’s done is done. But as noble as our cause is, I think we as a Nation are learning the cost of “going it alone.” In the world’s eyes, perception is reality and the US is increasingly viewed as arrogant and self-serving. A close British friend here recently told me, “it’ll be a long time before Britain goes to war with the US again.” That’s telling.

Yes, it’s lonely at the top (although Americans relish being #1) but increasingly our actions are being viewed as those of occupiers, not freedom-loving liberators. While I dismiss most of the rhetoric, I think we need to re-shape our approach to national policy and strategy.

Globalization makes the world much smaller than it used to be. And it also results in every crisis being interrelated to all other ongoing world events. Current standoffs with the remaining 2/3 of the Axis of Evil have impacts here in Iraq, or perhaps it’s more accurate to state that actions here in Iraq are impacting what’s happening in North Korea and Iran. Continuing the status quo here using our scarce resources greatly affects our ability to respond elsewhere…and that is emboldening our enemies.

So we need to change our strategy. Politics drives strategy, which drives military operations. It is therefore reasonable to expect to see changes following the mid-term Congressional elections. The timing for change might actually work out well, since the Iraqi Council of Representatives this week passed legislation to allow the formation of federal regions (known as “federalism” in these parts). This has received virtually no US media coverage, which is alarming.

This action may portend failure for the future of the Iraqi unity government, since the Sunni representatives boycotted this session. The Sunnis oppose the creation of these federal regions, which would presumably create a northern Kurdish region, a southern Shia region and western Sunni region, governed by a weak central government based in Baghdad (and within the Shia-controlled region). So the Sunnis once again view themselves as being on the outside looking in. Which will inevitably lead to continued death squads targeting innocent Shias. And the Shias will continue to respond with their own death squads, targeting innocent Sunnis. Stop the madness!

Of course, a newly formed Kurdish region (Kurdistan?) would also greatly empower the Kurdish population in the north, which would not be well received by Turkey (a NATO member). Turkey fears that an independent Kurdish region across the border would trigger unrest amongst its own Kurdish population (~20%) and rightly sees this as a threat, internally as well as along its border. This could impact Iran as well, which has its own Kurds to placate (~7%).

Although Kurdistan would present diplomatic challenges to the US, a Shia federal region in the south would be more menacing, given Iranian ambitions and current meddling in Iraq. Sorting out the government corruption and favoritism has never been more challenging, but as I stated in my first Thoughts piece, the violence will end only when the people view themselves as Iraqis first, Sunnis/Shia second. As long as religion dominates politics, there is no nationalism. And without nationalism, there is no country.

The US appears to be signaling consent to the federalist proposal, which surprises me. Iran continues to lurk behind the scenes secretly (and increasingly not so secretly), fueling the violence and turmoil. And we continue to try to give the Government of Iraq (GOI) the benefit of the doubt, but there are many occasions that make it clear that the GOI’s political aims and objectives don’t include the Sunni minority. Privately, many of us often wonder if the US picked the wrong side of what increasingly appears to be a civil war.

Of course US policy doesn’t play favorites here, at least not publicly. But the complexity plays out like a Rubik’s Cube: line up all the green squares on one side, and the other 5 sides turn to crap. And the other 5 sides include places like Afghanistan, Korea, and Iran to name a few. It’s therefore virtually impossible to balance all regions of the world simultaneously, let alone keep the Sunnis, Shia and Kurds happy and united.

So what’s the solution? I’m waiting for James Baker to finish his work and tell us all. Clearly he’s a smart guy. Until he publishes his findings, here’s my take.

First, we should focus our military efforts on securing the borders of Iraq. The Iraqi Security Forces can handle the cities, but they can’t continue to take on the foreign fighters that continue to pour across the Syrian and Iranian borders. By shifting our (US) emphasis away for the cities and focusing on external threats, we’ll reduce casualties while simultaneously attacking the root cause of the problem instead of treating the symptom. Will this trigger civil war? Perhaps, but I think for all intents and purposes, we’re there already. At the very least, we’d shift the burden for prosecuting this war to the GOI, where it belongs.

The GOI would then be forced to deal with the militias. Anyone who’s seen a good western movie can relate to the role of the militias. They’re the renegade gangs that rule these towns by fear (if you don’t like westerns, remember Al Capone)? There is no law and order, except that which is provided by the militias. And the GOI has been very uneven in how it deals with this issue, publicly stating that all must be disbanded but doing little more than talking. It’s time for action.

Positioning our forces along the border (the Iranian border, in particular) would send a strong signal to Tehran that we’re watching…and waiting…and no longer consumed by internal Iraqi matters. That would provide us with the strategic agility (and resources) to reach out and touch Iranian belligerence. And with the US Navy likely closing in on the Korean peninsula, that little asshole will be held in check as well.

Does this solve all of our problems? Not necessarily, but steps like these would put some teeth back into our foreign policy. Amazingly, there are still some idealists who actually believe diplomacy can solve all of our problems – can’t we all just get along? But history has shown that without military muscle to back up actions, political goals cannot be achieved. Call me a realist.

And as we implement these changes in strategy, we need to do a better job of coalition-building. I’m not advocating sucking up to the French or Germans, but we certainly need to do a better job of stroking our true allies, such as the Brits, Aussies, Israelis and Canadians. Strengthened ties to India, Turkey, Jordan, Japan and Ukraine wouldn’t hurt either. With friends such as these, who cares what the Russians think!?

It’s clear that the time for action is now. Our favorite expression when dealing with the Iraqis is “we have watches, they have time.” Truer words have never been spoken. Time is not on our side, here or anywhere else.

I hope I’ve done an adequate job of giving you a perspective you aren’t likely to see on MSNBC or CNN. I’ve tried to be blunt and truthful, even if somewhat pessimistic at times. Our goals here in Iraq are much less lofty than they once were but that doesn’t mean we can’t leave Iraq a better place than when we found it. One thing is clear – the status quo ain’t working. We don’t need to abandon ship, just need to alter our approach. If/when we do, we’ll see that the glass really is half full…or more!
 
#2
#4
Uh Chief.
Don't mean to be a stickler for details but this Col. Kraak seems to be a figment of someone's imagination.I seriously doubt he exists.

Prove me wrong? Please?
 
#5
#6
Chief,

A very well written,very well thought out paper.Very eloquently puts on paper what I would like to articulate if I could.Only wish we had more people with the colonels mindset (if he exists.) :p
 
#7
Ok... I'm pretty sure he exists. (In fact I'm positive)

Anyway, let's focus on the content of it.
 
#8
From: Kraak Gregory C COL MNC-I IAG MITT Chief of Staff
Sent: Monday, October 16, 2006 1:17 PM
To: Michael Yon
Subject: FW: Thoughts III (Iraq) — the Final Chapter!


More importantly, why is he emailing book authors during a war?
 
#9
Taz_786 said:
From: Kraak Gregory C COL MNC-I IAG MITT Chief of Staff
Sent: Monday, October 16, 2006 1:17 PM
To: Michael Yon
Subject: FW: Thoughts III (Iraq) — the Final Chapter!


More importantly, why is he emailing book authors during a war?


Maybe he's being ghost written?
 
#11
'We have watches, they have time': that phrase alone made it well worth the read.

Thought provoking stuff and those six words get right to the heart of it of the current dilemma.

A much appreciated posting. Thanks Chief.
 
#12
First of all I can vouch that Col Kraak is not the figment of anyone's imagination but is a real person in a real post in Iraq.

As I wrote previously, I don’t question the decision to remove Saddam. It was right, appropriate and just. And our strategy of pre-emption has clearly worked, as evidenced by the fact that there have been no more terrorist attacks on US soil since 9/11.
I could have sworn that everyone was now admitting that there was no link even imaginary between Sadam and 9/11. A worrying and seriously destabilising thought if ever I heard one. On the basis of this no lessons have been learnt at all by the good Colonel as to permissive operations and the legal framework to underpin global credibility to ones actions.

But as noble as our cause is, I think we as a Nation are learning the cost of “going it alone.” In the world’s eyes, perception is reality and the US is increasingly viewed as arrogant and self-serving. A close British friend here recently told me, “it’ll be a long time before Britain goes to war with the US again.”
Where is the nobility in invading a country because we fabricated the evidence on the back of not liking the leader? Yes, Saddam was a thoroughly unpleasent individual but if anyone bothers to read the ISG report they will see that he was not concerned about posing a threat to the west but was posturing against Iran. Strategically although we hate to admit it, his removal was the key to empowering and emboldening Iran.

Of course US policy doesn’t play favorites here, at least not publicly. But the complexity plays out like a Rubik’s Cube: line up all the green squares on one side, and the other 5 sides turn to crap. And the other 5 sides include places like Afghanistan, Korea, and Iran to name a few. It’s therefore virtually impossible to balance all regions of the world simultaneously, let alone keep the Sunnis, Shia and Kurds happy and united.
A healthy dose of realism in his post here.

Positioning our forces along the border (the Iranian border, in particular) would send a strong signal to Tehran that we’re watching…and waiting…and no longer consumed by internal Iraqi matters. That would provide us with the strategic agility (and resources) to reach out and touch Iranian belligerence. And with the US Navy likely closing in on the Korean peninsula, that little asshole will be held in check as well.
Good to see rational thought in dealing with nuclear states. Looks like the redneck creeping out again. Both Iran and N Korea have realised that the gaiining of nuclear capability is the ulimate pawn to securing their future. The possession of these weapons means that the US is hamstrung in what it can and cannot do to them. Without them they face the potental same threat as Saddam's Iraq, with them they face merely political and economic pressure brought to bear through the UN.

Does this solve all of our problems? Not necessarily, but steps like these would put some teeth back into our foreign policy. Amazingly, there are still some idealists who actually believe diplomacy can solve all of our problems – can’t we all just get along? But history has shown that without military muscle to back up actions, political goals cannot be achieved. Call me a realist.
Ah, Clausewitzian theory. Good to see some learned underpinings to these ramblings. Realist ? Well at least this paragraph shows some appreciation for the situation. Until the Neo-Cons in Washington realise that you cannot achieve political objectives solely by the use of force we are doomed. The 'Might is Right' school of diplomacy is seriously flawed and it is about time that folks started smacking these lunatics obver the head with Clausewitz and Sun Tzu to get them to appreciate the true strategic impacts of operations. One of the major issues that he fails to address is the economic imperative that doesn't exist. With so many tax dolars being recycled into the hands of companies linked to the regimes in DC there is no startegic imperative to withdraw. The Contractors who are supposed to deliver the recontruction and nation building do not want to kill the Goose that Lays the Golden Egg which is Iraq. The same can be said for a number of the DoS [inc FCO/DfID] personnel living in the IZ and claiming seriously large allowances based upon the percieved threat and danger levels.[

And as we implement these changes in strategy, we need to do a better job of coalition-building. I’m not advocating sucking up to the French or Germans, but we certainly need to do a better job of stroking our true allies, such as the Brits, Aussies, Israelis and Canadians. Strengthened ties to India, Turkey, Jordan, Japan and Ukraine wouldn’t hurt either. With friends such as these, who cares what the Russians think
Starts off correctly then heads to the hills with the rest of the red necks. In Iraq they have played at coalition building in a very false manor. This is not a coalition of the willing but a coalition of political cover and those minor nations bribed or coerced by the White House to provide token forces. In come cases the Coalition Partners are doing it because the US is picking up the whole deployment cost + so the nation is maintaining its forces at reduced cost thanks ot the US taxpayer.

Our favorite expression when dealing with the Iraqis is “we have watches, they have time.” Truer words have never been spoken. Time is not on our side, here or anywhere else.
Truism, pity he doesn't relfect upon wht CGS said and link it with the TE Lawrence statement about better an Arab does it tolerably than a Westerner does it perfectly. The US have concistently failed to recognise that an Arab solution is required and not a Westernised Liberal democracy. They have sought to impose (9in less than a decade) upon the Iraqis systems of governance that have taken hundreds of years to evolve in London and Washington, they have also made many of the same mistakes with the Iraqi Army which is a charge that falls squarely at the feet of Col Kraak since he is CoS the Iraqi Army Group Transition Team.
 
#15
Interesting that he doesn't think the Germans are worth cultivating as allies. The value for Germany of not going along with the US over Iraq was considerable in domestic political terms as it showed that the new reunited country was finally of age- but with very well equipped armed forces (who can afford to change kit properly in mid stream- vis the new mine protected MARDER) and a real interest in getting involved internationally (lead on the Lebanese naval deployment and some very punchy articles domestically on how they should have led on land...), a country that still thinks it owes the US its freedom might be worth taking on board. And they still want that French security council seat...
 
#16
Chief_Joseph said:
Interesting perspective. Definitely recognizing the need for a new approach.
From: Kraak Gregory C COL MNC-I IAG MITT Chief of Staff
Sent: Monday, October 16, 2006 1:17 PM
To: Michael Yon
Subject: FW: Thoughts III (Iraq) — the Final Chapter!

As my deployment to Iraq nears completion, I’d like to provide closure to my “Thoughts.” Typically the final chapter of a trilogy closes out all story lines and provides at least some semblance of a happy ending. Unfortunately, that will not be the case here. There are many more chapters to write in Iraq and the future is anything but certain. Amid both promising and troubling indicators, I’m not sure if the glass is half empty or half full…some days I wonder if there’s any water in the glass at all.

How did we get to this point? We acted in our national interests, I’m convinced. As I wrote previously, I don’t question the decision to remove Saddam. It was right, appropriate and just. And our strategy of pre-emption has clearly worked, as evidenced by the fact that there have been no more terrorist attacks on US soil since 9/11.

But we’ve committed some unpardonable mistakes along the way. No point in debating those – what’s done is done. But as noble as our cause is, I think we as a Nation are learning the cost of “going it alone.” In the world’s eyes, perception is reality and the US is increasingly viewed as arrogant and self-serving. A close British friend here recently told me, “it’ll be a long time before Britain goes to war with the US again.” That’s telling.

Yes, it’s lonely at the top (although Americans relish being #1) but increasingly our actions are being viewed as those of occupiers, not freedom-loving liberators. While I dismiss most of the rhetoric, I think we need to re-shape our approach to national policy and strategy.

Globalization makes the world much smaller than it used to be. And it also results in every crisis being interrelated to all other ongoing world events. Current standoffs with the remaining 2/3 of the Axis of Evil have impacts here in Iraq, or perhaps it’s more accurate to state that actions here in Iraq are impacting what’s happening in North Korea and Iran. Continuing the status quo here using our scarce resources greatly affects our ability to respond elsewhere…and that is emboldening our enemies.

So we need to change our strategy. Politics drives strategy, which drives military operations. It is therefore reasonable to expect to see changes following the mid-term Congressional elections. The timing for change might actually work out well, since the Iraqi Council of Representatives this week passed legislation to allow the formation of federal regions (known as “federalism” in these parts). This has received virtually no US media coverage, which is alarming.

This action may portend failure for the future of the Iraqi unity government, since the Sunni representatives boycotted this session. The Sunnis oppose the creation of these federal regions, which would presumably create a northern Kurdish region, a southern Shia region and western Sunni region, governed by a weak central government based in Baghdad (and within the Shia-controlled region). So the Sunnis once again view themselves as being on the outside looking in. Which will inevitably lead to continued death squads targeting innocent Shias. And the Shias will continue to respond with their own death squads, targeting innocent Sunnis. Stop the madness!

Of course, a newly formed Kurdish region (Kurdistan?) would also greatly empower the Kurdish population in the north, which would not be well received by Turkey (a NATO member). Turkey fears that an independent Kurdish region across the border would trigger unrest amongst its own Kurdish population (~20%) and rightly sees this as a threat, internally as well as along its border. This could impact Iran as well, which has its own Kurds to placate (~7%).

Although Kurdistan would present diplomatic challenges to the US, a Shia federal region in the south would be more menacing, given Iranian ambitions and current meddling in Iraq. Sorting out the government corruption and favoritism has never been more challenging, but as I stated in my first Thoughts piece, the violence will end only when the people view themselves as Iraqis first, Sunnis/Shia second. As long as religion dominates politics, there is no nationalism. And without nationalism, there is no country.

The US appears to be signaling consent to the federalist proposal, which surprises me. Iran continues to lurk behind the scenes secretly (and increasingly not so secretly), fueling the violence and turmoil. And we continue to try to give the Government of Iraq (GOI) the benefit of the doubt, but there are many occasions that make it clear that the GOI’s political aims and objectives don’t include the Sunni minority. Privately, many of us often wonder if the US picked the wrong side of what increasingly appears to be a civil war.

Of course US policy doesn’t play favorites here, at least not publicly. But the complexity plays out like a Rubik’s Cube: line up all the green squares on one side, and the other 5 sides turn to crap. And the other 5 sides include places like Afghanistan, Korea, and Iran to name a few. It’s therefore virtually impossible to balance all regions of the world simultaneously, let alone keep the Sunnis, Shia and Kurds happy and united.

So what’s the solution? I’m waiting for James Baker to finish his work and tell us all. Clearly he’s a smart guy. Until he publishes his findings, here’s my take.

First, we should focus our military efforts on securing the borders of Iraq. The Iraqi Security Forces can handle the cities, but they can’t continue to take on the foreign fighters that continue to pour across the Syrian and Iranian borders. By shifting our (US) emphasis away for the cities and focusing on external threats, we’ll reduce casualties while simultaneously attacking the root cause of the problem instead of treating the symptom. Will this trigger civil war? Perhaps, but I think for all intents and purposes, we’re there already. At the very least, we’d shift the burden for prosecuting this war to the GOI, where it belongs.

The GOI would then be forced to deal with the militias. Anyone who’s seen a good western movie can relate to the role of the militias. They’re the renegade gangs that rule these towns by fear (if you don’t like westerns, remember Al Capone)? There is no law and order, except that which is provided by the militias. And the GOI has been very uneven in how it deals with this issue, publicly stating that all must be disbanded but doing little more than talking. It’s time for action.

Positioning our forces along the border (the Iranian border, in particular) would send a strong signal to Tehran that we’re watching…and waiting…and no longer consumed by internal Iraqi matters. That would provide us with the strategic agility (and resources) to reach out and touch Iranian belligerence. And with the US Navy likely closing in on the Korean peninsula, that little asshole will be held in check as well.

Does this solve all of our problems? Not necessarily, but steps like these would put some teeth back into our foreign policy. Amazingly, there are still some idealists who actually believe diplomacy can solve all of our problems – can’t we all just get along? But history has shown that without military muscle to back up actions, political goals cannot be achieved. Call me a realist.

And as we implement these changes in strategy, we need to do a better job of coalition-building. I’m not advocating sucking up to the French or Germans, but we certainly need to do a better job of stroking our true allies, such as the Brits, Aussies, Israelis and Canadians. Strengthened ties to India, Turkey, Jordan, Japan and Ukraine wouldn’t hurt either. With friends such as these, who cares what the Russians think!?

It’s clear that the time for action is now. Our favorite expression when dealing with the Iraqis is “we have watches, they have time.” Truer words have never been spoken. Time is not on our side, here or anywhere else.

I hope I’ve done an adequate job of giving you a perspective you aren’t likely to see on MSNBC or CNN. I’ve tried to be blunt and truthful, even if somewhat pessimistic at times. Our goals here in Iraq are much less lofty than they once were but that doesn’t mean we can’t leave Iraq a better place than when we found it. One thing is clear – the status quo ain’t working. We don’t need to abandon ship, just need to alter our approach. If/when we do, we’ll see that the glass really is half full…or more!

The civil war in Iraq is 1970s NI in a grander scale. How many years and troop levels did it take to rectify that quagmire.
Poor post war planning is the cause of this, as is now the problem in Afgahnistan. I just wish the politicians that matter would admit to this.
:x
 
D

Deleted 20555

Guest
#19
Chief_Joseph said:
Ok... I'm pretty sure he exists. (In fact I'm positive)

Anyway, let's focus on the content of it.
He might exist but that doesn't mean he wrote the piece in question - the write could have culled the name off a published author off the site.
 
#20
Deleted 20555 said:
Chief_Joseph said:
Ok... I'm pretty sure he exists. (In fact I'm positive)

Anyway, let's focus on the content of it.
He might exist but that doesn't mean he wrote the piece in question - the write could have culled the name off a published author off the site.
Good point.An active duty colonel writing and posting this stuff on the net is certainly not as smart as he might sound.I smell a put up job.
 

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