Counterinsurgency specialist Terrance J. Daly writes today about what should be blindingly obvious: The Bush Administration's tactics in Iraq are the problem -- not the solution.
Writing in the New York Times (registration required, but no fee), Daly says:
There is a difference between killing insurgents and fighting an insurgency. [my emphasis] In three years, the Sunni insurgency has grown from nothing into a force that threatens our national objective of establishing and maintaining a free, independent and united Iraq. During that time, we have fought insurgents with airstrikes, artillery, the courage and tactical excellence of our forces, and new technology worth billions of dollars. We are further from our goal than we were when we started.Daly proposes that the U.S. create a professional police organization to work in places like Iraq.
Counterinsurgency is about gaining control of the population, not killing or detaining enemy fighters. A properly planned counterinsurgency campaign moves the population, by stages, from reluctant acceptance of the counterinsurgent force to, ideally, full support.
I'm not certain I agree with all he says, but his proposal is worth examining. Most importantly, Daly does a good job of discussing why what we're doing in Iraq isn't working.
I find his arguments compelling for one reason. Let's call it the Common Sense Factor.
Common Sense leads me to wonder how I would feel if an Army from another country, oh, let's say Saudi Arabia, moved into my neighborhood out here in Kansas. How would my neighbors feel? What would we do?
If that Army overthrew a horrible dictator, we would probably be happy, at least at first. But what if my town was partically destroyed and never rebuilt? What if the electricity was never on, and the temperature was over 100 degrees as it has been many weeks out here on the parched Prairie.
What if some of my hot-headed neighbors -- and they do exist -- decided that they didn't like someone from another country marching down Lawrence's main street and started fighting back?
What if if became so dangerous my son couldn't go to school, I couldn't go to work, my mother couldn't walk her dog, and we risked death to go to church. Along with all that, throw in periodic torture by this invading army, constant searches of our homes, cultural insults and arrests of my relatives and friends, and how do you think we'd feel?
In this situation, what American wouldn't fight back or support those who do? Can you imagine that we wouldn't struggle to remove a foreign army from our soil? Maybe folks wouldn't fight in Boston, but we sure as heck would in Kansas.
Why do we have the crazy idea that Iraqis are different than we are? Why do we think we can win them to our side by hurting them? Most importantly, can you win the hearts and minds of a people you've brutalized?
Daly may have the whole solution to our dilemma or only part of it. He may be totally off base. I honestly don't know, but I do know that what Bush is doing isn't working. It's hurting Iraqis. It's hurting Americans. It's hurting our country.