Oh boy — Gentile’s at it again:
For surge enthusiasts, there is no such thing as declaring victory too soon. Historically, in order for a counterinsurgency to succeed, the counterinsurgent force must operate in a society with a relatively cohesive identity and alongside a government that possesses at least some measure of legitimacy—two conditions plainly spelled out in the new counterinsurgency manual. Neither apply to Iraq, where ministries operate by sect rather than by function, sectarian hatreds have gone well beyond the point where ‘hearts and minds’ campaigns will dampen them, and only a decades-long American occupation can prevent the country from coming apart at the seams. We are fighting an insurgency; they are fighting a civil war.
Now, before the COINsters mount their inevitable counterattack, let me just point out that Gentile’s argument is not that far from the new GAO report, which calls the surge “not a strategic plan” but “an operational plan with limitations”. Gentile:
By asserting […] that the surge amounts to a new strategy, its proponents confuse tactics—ones used widely since mid-2004—with strategy and, further, they credit this “strategy” with success when in fact victory in Iraq is anything but assured. The whole business reflects the surge’s insistence on substituting tactical scoring for genuine strategic measures of effectiveness. The idea is to offer action instead of purpose.
Those interested in a view from the ground, check out COL Dale Kuehl’s comment to my previous Gentile post.