Friday, October 12, 2007

Goodbye Blue Skies

More of Petraeus' vaunted counterinsurgency expertise on display in Iraq (via Swopa):

The U.S. military, meanwhile, said it was working with local Iraqi officials and tribal officials to investigate the killings of 15 civilians — six women and nine children — as well as 19 suspected insurgents Thursday in a U.S. ground and air assault targeting al-Qaida in Iraq northwest of Baghdad. [emphasis added]

As mentioned on this site last week, there are good reasons to doubt that a successful counterinsurgency operation was ever possible in Iraq due to large concentrations of people in urban settings, considerable cultural and linguistic barriers, as well as a myriad of other factors. At this juncture, that possibility is even more remote due to the fact that the attitudes of the population (hearts and minds) have already hardened against us, we're not only battling an insurgency (but rather a roiling, multifaceted conflict waged against a failing, lawless state) and we still lack those vital cultural/linguistic skills.

But if success is, or ever was, possible, it would require the utilization of the near-optimal blend of counterinsurgency best practices. Letting a bunch of mercenaries operate with near-impunity is on the other side of optimal. Relying on air power to supplement small-scale engagements (targeting a dozen or so combatants) is also massively counterproductive.

Petraeus knows this quite well, or he should if he is anything like the counterinsurgency virtuoso that his reputation would suggest. And yet, the policies show little sign of substantive adjustment.

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