Thursday, July 12, 2007

File Under: A COIN Toss for Hearts and Minds

From IraqSlogger:

In an apparent bid to apply pressure on Mahdi Army fighters, US forces have completely cut off electricity to the Baghdad district of Kadhimiya, al-Melaf reports in Arabic on Wednesday.

The measures are an attempt to pressure the residents of the district to expel members of the Mahdi Army in Kadhimiya and to turn them over to US forces, al-Melaf writes.

A few thoughts. First, aren't we supposed to be shifting to counterinsurgency tactics en masse. Does this type of collective punishment fit in to COIN doctrine? Regardless, I'm very skeptical of the efficacy of collective punishment in this context (any context really, but this one in particular). Consider the fact that most Iraqis outside of Kurdistan want US forces to leave, think US forces are increasing the levels of violence and instability and support attacks on US forces. On the flip-side, the Mahdi Army, and its putative leader Moqtada al-Sadr, enjoy very favorable popularity ratings.

Against that backdrop, we're going to cut the power off for an entire neighborhood in the middle of July (rumor has it, the heat might make the residents a wee bit uncomfortable) - banking on the fact that the locals will decide that the Mahdi Army is to blame for their hardships. Let me repeat that: they're supposed to side with us, and risk harm by "expelling" Mahdi Army members, because we cut off their power. Because they were already so disposed to viewing our soldiers in a positive light. This will surely help.

Did I mention this:

The Mahdi Army has assumed much of the security responsibility for the Kadhimiya district...
On the other hand, George Bush is rather insistent that we're a good country, and surely many Iraqis will be swayed by his determination, so this one's a COIN toss.

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